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Fruit, Abstracted

I do, as a rule, love grand displays of fresh produce. I see mounds of colourful fruit and veggies and I immediately want to relocate the lot to my kitchen so that I can have my wicked culinary way with them.

But what if the edibles are for display only and not destined to sate anything other than visual appetites? That, I’m afraid, I view somewhat differently.

The Keeling's Naturally Fresh Garden at Bloom

The Keeling's Naturally Fresh Garden at Bloom

At Bloom last weekend, I took several spins around the Keeling’s Naturally Fresh Garden, a Willy Wonka-esque display involving piles of fruit and veg posed in abstract forms – large cones filled with peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers, pyramids of bananas, metal trees growing apples and pears – all set in a space of vibrant purple and yellow and blue and orange. It was eye-catching to be sure but, by the last day of the show, I couldn’t help but be exercised by the sight of so many bananas browning and peppers wrinkling away in the sun. While there was delight at the colour and playfulness of the display, I was not alone in wondering what future lay in store for the soon to be ex-display fruit and in mentally tut-tutting at what appeared, to me at least, to be the waste involved.

Wherefore now, o fruit?

Wherefore now, o fruit?

Like the proverbial dog with a bone, I got more than a little fixated with the destiny of the display items and got in touch with the garden’s designers, Paul and Orla Woods. Orla graciously responded, letting me know that the fruit that was still in reasonable shape at the end of the event was handed out to attendees and what remained would be composted. She did also point out that the big display containers had hollow centres, such that the amounts used to fill them were less than one might perceive. All of which was fine, to a point, but I guess my preference would have been for a display that celebrated the food as, well, food. If, as in the official blurb, the intent of the garden was to “encourage people to enjoy the sensory and fun aspect of fruit” then is not the ultimate sensory appreciation of fruit via the sense of taste? We want people to delight in the sight of fresh garden goodies, sure, but, more importantly, we want that they should eat them too, don’t we?


  1. Jenni

    I’m with you–I am not a fan of conspicuous consumption, in general, and seeing a ton of fruit and veggies piled up as art is vaguely unsettling to me. Glad to hear that they were passing some of it out, but a trip to the compost bin is a sucky consolation prize.

  2. The Duo Dishes

    That’s interesting. Well definitely we’d think those fruits would be eaten, but perhaps this was an art for art’s sake display. No need to waste good food though!

  3. OysterCulture

    I agree with all your points, but have to confess that I was distracted by the glorious photos on this post, the colors are incredible, they leap from my monitor. To your point about not wasting, it would be great if they had something more productive than the compost bin as a guaranteed final option.

  4. Tangled Noodle

    Ah! What a dilemma: while I can totally appreciate the visual artistry, you’re right on point that although it engages all of the senses, the first function of food is to be eaten and tasted. Handing them out to attendees at the end of the show doesn’t guarantee that they won’t be wasted – many of us are still stuck on the idea that food is most appealing when it displays perfect form. Fruits and veggies that have been piled on top of each other under the sun are going to look a bit peaked by that time.

    Keep in mind that it’s been less than a year since the EU Agriculture Commission decided to end Ugly Veg & Fruit Discrimination. Perhaps next year, Bloom might consider inviting artists of different media to display their representations of produce – just as beautiful but much less wasteful!

  5. Lori

    Beautiful pictures! I’ll never forget the first time I saw the feira in Brazil. I was expecting a street fest and didn’t realize it was their version of the farmer’s market. I was like a kid in a candy store, no doubt. Eyes wide, jumping from booth to booth and writing down anything I didn’t know the translation for so I could look it up later.

  6. Lori

    I meant to add that I often wonder the same about the fate of the produce after the weekly events as well. Often there is a lot left over and I hope it is eventually used up and that the beautiful bounty doesn’t go to waste.

  7. gastroanthropologist

    Really amazing colors – the natural color of things always amazes me…we’ve gotten so used to orange carrots and green broccoli, but so much more occurs naturally.

    It does seem a bit oxymoronic to celebrate the fruit and then have it tossed – I’m sure by then end little will be deemed edible for consumption. I love the idea of experiencing foods using different senses though … Slow Food does a Taste Adventure for kids where they go through a series where they experience food using each sense. Like touching something without being able to see it, tasting things blindfolded, listening to cooking methods, etc…

  8. Daily Spud

    Jenni: yep, I would have to agree…

    Duo Dishes: I don’t think it was intended to be art for arts sake but, at the same time, if there was an intention or aspiration that it would encourage people to eat more fruit, then, for me, it perhaps wasn’t the best way of doing that

    OysterCulture: I know – compost is all very well, but there were stacks of bananas (not pictured here) and I couldn’t help but think about just how much banana bread that would have made!

    Tangled Noodle: absolutely, I think the problem with this particular approach is that the messages were mixed – isn’t fruit beautiful but, oh look, now it’s withering away in the sun – for me, it misses something

    Lori: it was exactly that same hope that I could hear being expressed by at least some of the onlookers

    gastroanthropologist: I like the sound of that Taste Adventure! We can absolutely experience fruit and vegetables using multiple senses and, as long as that includes the sense of taste, then it’s a worthy endeavour

  9. Chef E

    Where are the dumpster divers when you need them? Oh, I forgot, I have to bring that hobby to Ireland, and get in the post…American Chef found up to knees in composted rubbage…okay I am being silly now!

  10. Daily Spud

    I think some dumpster diving would have been a highly appropriate way to deal with this particular situation, lol!

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