Terra Sigillata

Never bathe in rose petals

i-1d5ed9465127ec61c6977ae3c3fdeec5-bookcover.jpgSuch was the tagline of a review of Amy Stewart’s new book, “Flower Confidential,” as written by George Anders in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal.

Ms. Stewart, however, is a danger-seeker. In “Flower Confidential” she tests her love by grabbing her reporter’s notebook and her passport and traveling to Latin American farms and Dutch markets to explore the commercial flower business.

The result is a quirky but entertaining book. Each chapter becomes a test of wills. Can our happy narrator keep her faith as she learns the ugly truths of an industry with $40 billion a year in global sales? Or will disillusionment set in, causing Ms. Stewart to curse the profiteers, tricksters and pesticide sprayers that she meets along the way?


The review makes me want to read the book because it sounds similar to how Michael Pollan approached our relationship with plants in “Botany of Desire.” Stewart apparently covers much of the history of plant breeding since the 1760s all the way up to the dilemma of the social costs of that $25 bunch of two dozen roses at Costco.

The tagline and title of this post comes from her discussion of the use of pesticides on imported roses as described by Mr Anders:

Ms. Stewart’s best reporting comes in a visit to the Miami airport, where as many as 15 million stems a day arrive in the runup to Valentine’s Day. Inspectors hunt for any trace of bugs and yet don’t test for illegal pesticide residues. What is the growers’ quite rational response? Douse flowers with pesticides. As one grower warns her, never bathe in rose petals.

I’ve already learned another neat thing from the book review: grocery stores that keep their floral departments close to the produce section are doing a great disservice to floral patrons. Ethylene gas, used to ripen fruits and a natural product of the ripening process, significantly decreases the shelflife of flowers bought from grocery stores. “For anyone who has wondered why a grocery bouquet dies so quickly, Ms. Stewart has the answer,” says Anders.

By the way, Amy has a blog called “Dirt,” that chronicles her book tour and amazing press exposure over the last few weeks.

Comments

  1. #1 mollishka
    February 13, 2007

    But it’s okay if I grow them myself, right?