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Consider the Vegetable Bouquet

This Valentine’s Day, skip a dozen roses for an elegant arrangement you can eat

an elaborate, sculptural bouquet featuring several varieties of radicchio in pink, splotchy green, and dark red in front of a cream fabric background; a promotional image for Natoora’s “Radicchio Not Roses” campaign
A promotional image from Natoora’s “Radicchio Not Roses” campaign.

I once went to a mushroom-themed musical dinner. The entire meal featured mushrooms, from the white snow fungus in the welcome drinks to the shiitakes in the sweet mushroom pavlova (surprisingly good!). Naturally, before any dishes even hit the table, mushrooms appeared there too; frilly clusters of oyster mushrooms anchored arrangements that were otherwise sparsely poked with greenery and just a flower or two.

It brought to life what I’d been long coveting on my Instagram feed: bouquets and centerpieces made up primarily of vegetables and mushrooms, with flowers present but taking a supporting role. The trend is poised to continue, and to extend beyond the food world: The wedding publication Brides recently named non-floral accents like fruit and fungi as one of the trends that will dominate weddings in 2024.

A prominent example of this style is the work of the Los Angeles floral designer Yasmine Mei, who describes her approach as “playfully combining the classical and the unusual.” Her arrangements include pomegranates surrounding pink oysters and pom poms of lion’s mane, fluffy tufts of flowers interspersed with enokis, and thick trumpets nestled into a bouquet with herbs. A design featuring mushrooms along with underripe tangerines and stalks of yellow grevillea, also known as spider flowers, offers an otherworldly appearance. She’s used mushrooms at events for Salad Freak author Jess Damuck and fashion designer Stella McCartney.

Events by the rapidly growing mushroom supplier Smallhold also often feature mushroom and floral centerpieces. The snack table at a recent launch party for the brand’s mushroom pesto was anchored by a lush display of oyster mushrooms, flowers, and ferns, lending an immersive forest aura to the otherwise industrial-looking Brooklyn meadery Honey’s.

It isn’t just mushrooms starring in these refreshingly unpredictable designs. A splash of white currants turn a single pitcher plant into a centerpiece in an arrangement from London florist Kasia Borowiecka, who has also used tropical fruit, as well as kale and bitter melon, to great textural effect. Sparse designs from the Limassol, Cyprus artist Anastasia Kolesnichenko find sculptural beauty in arrangements as simple as a single star fruit paired with a slice of citrus and two flowers; so do designs from Berlin floral designer Carolin Ruggaber, who anchors arrangements with grapes or lemons.

Similarly, the Brooklyn pop-up series Produce Parties, which throws potluck events that are themed around a fruit, vegetable, or mushroom, extends its themes to its tablescapes, typically working with floral designer Lindsay Jones. Towers of carnations and tomatoes stole the show at a tomato-themed party in the summer. These aren’t your typical Edible Arrangements, but art that highlights the beauty in what happens to be edible.

Natoora, the purveyor of specialty produce, makes a compelling case for the vegetable bouquet each Valentine’s Day. With its “Radicchio, Not Rosescampaign, Natoora argues that not only are roses wasted at the end of their lives, but the process of producing them is often exploitative and environmentally unsustainable, requiring shipping over large distances and transportation on more resource-intensive refrigerated trucks. Radicchio, by comparison, can be eaten after being enjoyed visually.

What I like about produce-centric bouquets is the break from expectation. There is still a place for flowers, of course, but these bouquets offer a way of looking past the obvious (flowers alone) and to more unexpected elements (weird vegetables, fun fruit) and what they can add in terms of shape, texture, and color. This Valentine’s Day, add some variety to your usual flowers by bulking up your bouquet at the farmers market.