Where are edible flowers sold? Don't go running out to the florist, as bouquets are generally toxic - not exactly the ideal ingredients. If you haven't cultivated your own garden, try exploring gourmet markets, specialty spice stores or farmer's markets. These types of vendors will most likely be selling edible flowers. Or, if you feel like being closer to nature, why not pick your own dinner - venture out into a nearby meadow with an edible flower guide.

Edible flowers are extremely fragile and cannot be conserved in the refrigerator, and thus must be consumed as quickly as possible. While waiting to cook the flowers, place the stems in a bit of water to keep them fresh. When ready to prepare them, delicately rinse each flower in cold water, and then dry them, carefully blotting each piece with paper towel. Remove the stems, using a knife if necessary, and then, using tweezers, gently take off the pistil, petals and small leaves.

Flowers can be consumed raw, cooked, in confit or infused in sauce. They liven up dishes, creatively complementing appetizers, main courses or desserts. Nasturtiums, primrose, borage flowers and dandelion are all eaten raw in salads. It is important to choose the flower according to their flavor, taking into consideration how each distinct taste would correspond with other ingredients. Nasturtiums have a sharp, pungent flavor similar to watercress. Daisies have a very strong, smoky flavor and borage flowers faintly resemble the taste of oysters.

For a touch of the Provençal, try the zucchini flower, delicious fried or stuffed. To prepare his fried zucchini flowers, Chef Alain Ducasse combines 3.5 oz (100 grams) of rice flour, 8.5 oz (¼ liter) of water and one egg yolk to make a very light batter, like tempura. He dips the flowers in the batter just before frying in oil. The Pourcel brothers, chefs at the Jardin des Sens restaurant in Montpelier, stuff zucchini flowers with clam meat. Reine Sammut, chef at La Fenière in Lourmarin, makes a vegetable/herb stuffing.

At the Prince de Galles in Paris, Chef Dominique Cécillon uses poppies, rose petals and ranunculus to add distinct flavors to a traditional sauces. "I work with them often, infusing the flowers into sauces. You have to use a huge quantity of flowers, but let them infuse for a very short period of time," explained Chef Cécillon.

A favorite edible flower of chefs Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier in their seacoast garden at Arrows Restaurant in Ogunquit, Maine is the racy citrus marigold. Its assertive peppery-citrus flavor is easily used in a variety of ways, such as delivered raw in a salad or infused into a beurre blanc sauce.

And, lastly, edible flowers make a lovely addition to many desserts. For example, you can fry locust flowers (soaked in rum and sugar before frying) or you can decorate fruit salads, flan or cake with violets, rose petals and crystallized poppies. Dip the flowers in corn syrup and Arabic gum, and then sprinkle powdered sugar on top before they have dried. You can't go wrong!