Ministry of Controversy

Valentine’s Day News

Lots of interesting post-Valentine's Day stories, including:

Florists in Baghdad are getting back on track. Roses were going for five bucks each, but there were also enough teddy bears and plush red hearts to go around.  Good to know that cheap and not terribly romantic Valentine's merchandise is available all over the world. (What grown woman wants a stuffed animal as a romantic overture?  I don't get it.)

Meanwhile, overseas Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia were warned not to go around flaunting all that lascivious V-day merchandise because "the muttawah or… Commission for the
Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, are “especially active"
during this time of the year because they always try to stop Saudis
from celebrating Valentine’s Day – which they regard as “an alien,
un-Islamic festival."

Good to know. And flower growers in Gaza were finally able to export carnations across the border, so that's progress.  Meanwhile, Kenya, which supplies roses to Europe for the big day, had a mediocre season, and Colombia's a little worried,too.

It's all so romantic when you think about it in terms of war-torn border crossings and global currency destabilizations, isn't it? 

And how about this.  The story's a bit old, but that's appropriate, somehow:  Scientists have finally understood a little more about how a chemical called 1-methylcyclopropane works to block ethelyne production and slow down ripening in flowers, plants, and fruits. They believe it's a reaction with naturally-occurring copper in plant cells.

What, you've never heard of 1-methylcyclopropane?  Found in products like EthylBloc,
sprayed on flowers and plants to make them last longer? (That's the
Valentine's Day connection; ethylene inhibitors are used in the flower
industry to make roses last longer.) Or SmartFresh, which is sprayed on apples, bananas, tomatoes, avocados, and other fruit?

Well, trust me, you've eaten it.  A 2006 NYT article (stale,but still crisp!) reports that almost 2/3 of our apples are sprayed with SmartFresh. One interesting point is that "by suppressing ethylene it decreases the esters that give ripe apples their fruity aromas," which may explain why you've bitten into a crisp and juicy apple only to find the taste gone. UK news reports said that American grocery shops may stock apples that are up to a year old, while UK apples may be only six months old, with the treatment.

Now, there doesn't seem to be any data that indicates that the stuff is harmful–see the Pesticide Action Network's page on the product–and at the moment, it's not approved for use on organic produce, so you can get around eating it–but I ask you: do chemical preservatives take the romance out of strawberries and roses, neither of which are in season in February anyway?

Posted by on February 16, 2009 at 7:51 am, in the category Ministry of Controversy.
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11 responses to “Valentine’s Day News”

  1. Nancy says:

    Cut flowers on Valentine’s Day have totally lost their appeal for me. However, my husband gave me a clivia for Valentine’s Day back in 1996, and we still enjoy the blooms of her and her offspring each winter. That methylcyclopropane sounds suspicious at best.

  2. Dave says:

    My wife’s become a fitness nut, so she asked for a heart-rate monitor for Valentine’s Day. I figure, it comes with a little picture of a heart on it, so it’s Valentine-y.

  3. Benjamin says:

    Year old apples in the store? See, it does not pay to eat anything, go anywhere, do anything. Buy your sweetie anything–a stuffed animal, flowers, chocolate, electronics–and it’s imported from the other side of the world via tons of pollution-causing transporation, messed up governments, and underpaid workers. And, what you buy likely is unsustainable in itself, emits VOCs, is difficult to recycle…. Nice. Thank you.

  4. Year old apples? That’s an endorsement for eating in season if ever there were one…

  5. JT says:

    Strawberries are in season now where I live, and I love watching my husband eating them any day. As for the roses, my 83 year old mother worked in a florist shop this Valentine’s season stripping 25 dozen imported roses. That image takes the bloom off a rose bouquet for me, even if I did enjoy cut flowers. Still, the job gave her some money for stuff she needs and she really likes handling the flowers even though, as she reported, the roses weren’t so good this year.

    Valentine’s day is weird.

  6. Amy, I always wondered why organic apples in the store taste so much better. I mean, I knew why the ones off the tree were delectable, but why would the organic, store-bought ones also taste so much better? I now have my answer, and I’m also a little creeped out.~~Dee

  7. SJ says:

    I worked in a flower shop years ago – I will not to this day buy cut flowers from anyone except at the local farmer’s market from an organic grower. I also prefer to pick them, in season, from my own garden even if they only last a couple of days.

  8. Old Kim says:

    Organic tastes good if it’s grown well.
    Bought a Jumbo Jack with cheese, curly fries with ranch, and nachos with jalapenos and a side of fat. The drive through had a new menu. I really liked that they posted their calories even though I hated the fact that they slowed down my lunch by me waiting 15 minutes on the side.

  9. Sally says:

    I got some electrical work done by my valentine… maybe we’ll have heat soon.

  10. commonweeder says:

    More and more I realize what a blessed spot I live in, here in the hills of Western Massachusetts. I can buy apples from a new farm down the road, root vegetables from local farms AND I can even buy local flowers from a local nursery that sells to the NYC flower market. Twice a week he trucks down flowers that were cut that day. I have to admit he doesn’t have roses though. The local rose greenhouses closed a few years ago.

  11. Genevieve says:

    That’s just foul. Year-old apples? Ick. I’m glad I’m still drinking the frozen juice and eating the frozen pie from our own apples a couple months ago. Nothin’ but dormant spray used on those babies…

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