Flowers? How old school. Candy? Not the healthiest alternative for a friend in today’s weight conscious world. Next time you send a gift to someone who means the world to you, try making a beautiful statement fashioned of fresh fruit, just like the pricey ones you admire. Fruit flowers may look complicated, but if you’re handy with a knife and love new culinary challenges, this could become your favorite hobby. Like love, timing is everything when you’re working with fresh produce. Make your fruit flowers early in the day and deliver them as soon as possible – preferably during daylight hours so you don’t miss the look of joy and surprise on your friend’s or relative’s face.
Your Mom Was Right: Prepare Before You Execute
Beauty, color and freshness are all well and good, but hygiene rules when dealing with food. Err on the side of caution by scrubbing your pineapples, strawberries, grapes, kiwi and seasonal varieties of fresh fruit with a commercial fruit- and vegetable-cleaning product and a soft brush before you start. Gather supplies on your kitchen counter top so you don’t find yourself running around while you’re wrist-deep in flower shaping. You need big, flower-shaped, cookie cutters, sharp knives, lemons to inhibit cut fruit from turning brown, long bamboo skewers, a cookie sheet and tall glasses to get started.
Sponge Bob Would be Proud
He lives in a pineapple under the sea, but you want the juicy, tropical fruit to live within your fruit arrangement, so start carving yours as follows: Remove the greenery and trim off the skin before cutting ½-inch pineapple slices. Douse each with lemon juice. Press a large, flower-shaped cookie cutter into pineapple slices to create flower shapes. Make centers for your pineapple flowers by using a melon baler; scoop out little round balls of cantaloupe and cut each in half. Break off small pieces from one skewer and use it to attach the cantaloupe half-moons to the center of each pineapple flower. Feed a long bamboo skewer into the side of each, but don’t allow it to pop out the other end. Place the flower on a cookie sheet, cover with a damp cloth and refrigerate until you’ve made all of the other flowers.
A Berry Merry Tulip
Admit it: big, fleshy strawberries bring unopened tulips to mind, so add a dozen or more to your fruit arrangement. Size matters. Use really big berries so they’re not overshadowed by those show-off pineapple sunflowers cooling in the ‘fridge. Strawberry blooms are easy to make and fast, so set up an assembly line of skewers, berries and a chocolate shell product. Leave the green head on the strawberry to create the illusion of leaves. Poke one bamboo skewer into the top of the strawberry and then use your best fondue technique to dip fruit into the chocolate. Place each dipped tulip into a tall glass to give it a moment to harden. When all of the blooms are made, refrigerate them. Get extra artsy by pushing the skewer through the fruit, dipping and capping the bud with a gumdrop, mini-marshmallow or another small candy before the tulips hit the ‘fridge.
Heard It On the Grapevine, Did You?
Your florist is a whiz at combining flowers so not everything in an arrangement consists of a bloom atop a long stem. Take a tip from the expert by shaping long stems of fruit that suggest hollyhocks. Feed red and green grapes, leftover melon balls, cherries, chunks of apple and orange sections onto the top half of skewers to make lanky fruit flowers that pair nicely with your sunflowers and tulips. Don’t go any lower than half way on the skewer as you’ll be putting your arrangement into a jar, vase or another vessel and you won’t want chunks of fruit and grapes to be hidden from view. Place these fruited stems on the cookie tray holding your pineapple sunflowers to keep the fruit moist and fresh.
Kiwi Buds Add a Finishing Touch
If you cut your slices just right, you can create three-dimensional fruit buds that will add interest and more color to your bouquet. Slice kiwis to make nice circles. Cut chunks of lemon juice-soaked apple (smaller than the diameter of kiwis). Slide one or two apple chunks onto each skewer before adding a circle of kiwi and then a cherry. The apple chunks will support the kiwi slice and the cherry will hide the tip of the skewer if you’ve sandwiched the layers correctly. These little buds add just enough dimension, color and variety to the arrangement to complete it. Store the kiwi buds in another tall glass and refrigerate them if you’re not quite ready to start building your finished bouquet.
Off to the Vases
Of course you can use a tall glass or ceramic vase to hold your fruit flowers, but if you’re the innovator in your crowd, think outside the arrangement. Head for the dollar store. Pick up a kid’s beach pail, a tall wicker basket or anything quirky that strikes your fancy. Place a block of floral foam into the bottom or, if they won’t be seen, fill the vessel with baking potatoes or a head of cabbage so you have a sturdy base capable of holding each flower-topped skewer in place. Green coconut makes a nice fill. You can skip the vessel if you like. A giant purple cabbage makes a colorful displayer, but make sure you cut a uniform section from the bottom so it stays put rather than rolling around! You may want to break off a portion of each skewer before sinking the flowers into the vegetable head if the arrangement looks too top-heavy.