Tulip Fever Around The Corner

Perhaps amazingly, the minute Swedes' thoughts turn away from the Christmas holidays they turn straight toward spring, even though it's generally about a five-month slog to get there. To bring in the Spring early, we all seem to start buying tulips the minute the poinsettias are dead. Lots of tulips. Scandinavians seem nearly as obsessed with bulbs as the Dutch (who export nine billion bulbs each year). Well maybe not quite as obsessed - the Dutch are contemplating building a fake island in the North Sea shaped like a tulip, read about it here.

So the Swedish grocery chain Coop is set to next week introduce organic, KRAV-certified tulips, produced not far north of Stockholm and to cost about 50 Swedish crowns (approximately $7.50) for a bouquet of 10 stems. According to Coop, three million of the tulips are expected to be sold in the first year alone, saving 250 tons of chemicals that would otherwise be used on conventional tulips. And the paper sleeve is recyclable, unlike the conventional plastic wrap. We've had the carbon footprint of flowers debate on treehugger before, and while organic is better than conventional, and local better than flown-in, are these tulips too good to be true?

According to Coop's organic tulip grower David Thorberg, the tulips don't start out organic at all - the bulbs are conventional and from the Netherlands. Dutch attempts to make a good organic tulip bulb have thus far yielded nothing good enough, Thorberg says. The bulbs are carefully nurtured in cellars before being brought up to the greenhouse for blooming. Ah, the greenhouse - the biggest cost for hothouse growers is getting the house hot, and Thorberg's flower farm is no different - except that he's switched to district heating for his greenhouses that is 2/3 spilled heat from a local CHP plant, and 1/3 renewable energy.

That innovation, Thorberg said, is what set him apart from other local tulip growers that are learning to cultivate their bulbs without using artificial chemicals or chemical fertilizers - he uses chicken manure - and insured him the contract with Coop. Plus, Thorberg said he's convinced that if KRAV rules were to include control of CO2 emissions, his system could easily pass. Stay tuned. KRAV has promised to introduce its suggestions for climate-certified foods and other goods in April 2008. Via ::Newsdesk