This Valentine’s Day, show some love to your sweetheart AND North Carolina by purchasing locally grown flowers, chocolates and wine. The National Retail Federation shows that after greeting cards, candy and flowers are the most gifted items for the holiday. The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has a few suggestions for shopping for your valentine.
Flowers are one of the top gifts given for Valentine’s Day and for many growers, Feb. 14 is one of their biggest sales holidays of the year. Planning for Valentine’s Day started around the first of October inside greenhouses at Sarah and Michael’s Farm in Durham. It takes about 19 weeks to bring their brightly colored Asiatic lilies and highly perfumed Oriental lilies from bulbs to harvest stage. The flowers are harvested two days before they open and shipped to small grocery stores and florists in central North Carolina. The lilies will also be available at many Lowes Foods grocery stores.
Locally grown bouquets are also available at Castle Hayne Farms in New Hanover County. The farm will offer different sizes of its Carolina Bouquet at the farm for $5, $10 and $15. Bouquets are a handpicked assortment of what is in-season on the farm. For Valentine’s Day this includes irises, tulips and lilies.
Cut flower plants accounted for $6.8 million in sales in 2012, a 70 percent increase over 2011. For a complete list of farms and nurseries offering cut flowers, visit www.ncfarmfresh.com or ask at your local florist or grocery store if any of their flowers are locally grown.
Chocolate produced in North Carolina is a perfect companion to go along with a locally grown bouquet and it supports the growing specialty foods industry. Recently, three North Carolina chocolate companies were honored with national Good Food Awards. The Good Food Awards honor small-scale food producers whose products taste great and meet sustainability standards. Videri Chocolate Factory in Raleigh won with its 90% Dark Chocolate Ecuador Camino Verde. Videri is offering a Valentine’s Day confections box that includes one bar and six confections for $23.99. WR Chocolatier in Raleigh won in the confection category for its Mocha. The company’s featured collections include salted caramels, truffle bars, and fruit and nut bark. French Broad Chocolates in Asheville won in the confections category for Indian Kulfi Truffle. Its chocolates include truffles, caramels, bars and brownies. French Broad chocolates are sold at many locations throughout the state.
If you want to dazzle your sweetheart with something sparkly, try a sparkling N.C. wine. Or, for a more adventurous way to enjoy the Valentine’s weekend, consider visiting one of the wineries located in the state. North Carolina has more than 120 vineyards and wineries, and many offer tours and tastings. Our state offers a wide range of wines for every taste palate, including sweet and fruity Muscadine wine, crisp, brilliant whites and full-bodied, complex reds. The state has three main grape-growing areas. Those are the Yadkin Valley, Swan Creek and the Haw River Valley, and wineries are found in the mountains, Piedmont area and coast. Since 2001, the number of wineries in North Carolina has quadrupled, making a day trip to a winery an easy date to have with your Valentine. For a list of wineries in North Carolina, visit www.ncwine.org.
Whatever you plan for this Valentine’s Day, consider supporting North Carolina growers and companies and making it a Got to Be NC holiday.