Valentine's gift guide

Why not woo with the classics this Valentine's Day?
 
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01 .Chocolate

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While nothing says ‘I love you’ quite like a box of chocolates, our survey of over 300 members found most chocolate lovers have their definite favourites. There are even clear trends between the sexes. Though we hate to put a downer on Valentine's Day, there is a lesser known poisonous side to flowers that should be considered. The cut flower industry is a heavy user of pesticides so you may be gifting more than just a bunch of blooms.

We surveyed over 300 CHOICE members about their chocolate habits and favourite boxed varieties to help you select the best brands and flavours.

What to Buy

ferrero-resize

Ferrero Rocher Ferrero Rocher 30pk 375g
Price: $14.69

 

lindt-resize Lindt Lindor Balls Gift Box Assorted 235g
Price: $16.98

 

 

Not one respondent said they disliked chocolate, with over 53% eating it at least once a week and 18% claiming to eat it every day. The majority reported feeling happy or satisfied after eating it – so you could say you are giving the gift of happiness. Only 13% reported feeling guilty.

Most trusted brands

Not sure which brand to buy? Lindt is a clear favourite amongst members, gaining 42% of the vote, followed by Cadbury, Ferrero and Haigh’s. When it comes to specific products the old favourites still ring true, with Lindt Lindor balls preferred well above the rest, followed by Ferrero Rochers - both readily available at the supermarket.

Flavours and fillings

Dark chocolate is a winner with men, while women’s preferences are divided almost evenly between dark and milk. Only 6% say they prefer white chocolate, so only opt for this if you know your Valentine is a fan.

Stumped for the flavour or filling? Hazelnut, peppermint cream and smooth caramel are the top three flavours among respondents. It’s best to avoid marzipan and aniseed, which are the least preferred. However if you are a fan and your significant other isn’t, it might be worth sticking around: 78% of respondents said if they didn’t like a flavour they would either offer it to a friend or family member, or put it back in the box – so you may get to share in the spoils.

On the other hand, if you live with your Valentine you may miss out. Thirty six percent of respondents admitted to hiding chocolates from other household members.

 
 

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Just as it wouldn’t be Christmas without pudding, it wouldn’t be Valentine's Day without flowers. With such a range to choose from, the difficulty of keeping them looking good and the mystery around where they are grown, buying a bunch can be a minefield.

Flowers and chemicals 

The industry is highly dependent on getting perfect, blemish-free products on the market quickly. While data on the use of agrochemicals is rare, the industry uses a wide range including pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers to achieve this. “There are a number of chemicals registered in Australia to treat cut flowers. Most of these are dips or fumigants,” says Simon Cubit, spokesperson for the regulatory body, Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicine Authority (AVPMA).

However, as flowers are not a food crop, there are no Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) like those that exist for fruits and vegetables. According to Cubit, MRLs only apply to consumable products.

Many of our imported flowers come from countries such as Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Kenya, India and China. Globally banned pesticides, such as DDT, may still be used in some countries and questionable application methods have been reported, resulting in exposure-related health problems for workers.

Imported flowers may also be fumigated on entering Australia for quarantine purposes. “If imported flowers are treated (fumigated/dipped) in Australia, then only Australian-registered chemicals approved for that purpose can be used,” says Mr Cubit. “Once treated, it is unlikely they would be tested for residue levels before entering the market.”

How can you tell if they are imported or locally grown?

The most you can do is ask the florist – and during peak seasonal demand flowers are only sourced from overseas to supplement Australian-grown stock. At present, cut flowers do not need to have country of origin labelling so there is really no other way to know if they came from down the road or overseas. Read Christopher Zinn's blog on this topic.

Considering all this, the important question is whether consumers should be concerned. According to Mr Cubit, provided chemical label instructions are followed, any risk through contact should be negligible. Still, makes you think twice before stopping to smell the roses.

What can you do?

  • Buy organic flowers.
  • Buy local flowers to ensure it hasn’t gone through quarantine fumigation – ask your florist.
  • Grow your own.

Prices not so rosy

Roses are the floral symbol of Valentine's Day, but due to increased demand the prices can be less than rosy. Timing is crucial for farmers in ensuring they get a perfect rose to you at the store. Roses flower every 12 weeks and the timing needs to be precise to produce the perfect bloom. In order for this to happen, farmers have to sacrifice a crop, meaning you will pay around 100% more for a rose during the week leading up to Valentines Day.

What the different blooms symbolise

If buying flowers for your Valentine, you may want to consider the type of bloom carefully. Whether you want to say “I love you” or let someone know how full of disdain you are, there is likely a flower to express it. If you want to tell your Valentine they are exquisitely lovely, opt for a bunch of white camellias, or if you want a subtle way to tell your significant other that they talk too much, you could try a belladonna lily – just keep yourself out of striking distance. Below are some more flowers and their meanings to help you make the right statement this Valentines Day.

Valentines-Day-table-Red-600 

 

Looking after your blooms

One of the downsides to receiving flowers as a gift – besides the task of finding an appropriately sized vase – is that, eventually, they die and the beautiful symbol of your Valentine’s affections has to be binned. While you can’t stop the wilting process, there are some things you can do to keep them looking fresh for longer. Below are some dos and don’ts of keeping cut flowers that are relevant to both the gifter and giftee:

DO

  • Be sure the flowers are fresh at purchase – choose flowers that are just starting to open and avoid those that are wilting or have discoloured leaves or slimy stems.
  • Pack them carefully after purchase.
  • Put them in a bucket of fresh water up to the time of gifting or while preparing a vase.
  • Put a floral preservative in the vase water.
  • Remove any lower leaves that will fall below the water line.
  • Using sharp scissors cut about two centimetres off the bottom of each stem.
  • Replace or top up the water every few days.

DON'T

  • Buy flowers that have been sitting in the sun or that have been exposed to car fumes.
  • Let them sit in a hot car!
  • Put the flowers in a dirty vase. The bacteria will make them spoil faster.
  • Put your vase of flowers in direct sunlight or near heaters or draughts.
  • Put your vase near fruit and vegetables. They produce a gas that will cause them to wilt faster.


 

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