When you work at a wine store, people often ask which bottle makes a good gift. The subtext of this inquiry is usually “I'm trying to acknowledge someone whose taste I know nothing about, but they drink, so alcohol seems right.” Unless the gift-receiver in question was really old, conservative, or boring (just grab the Macallan and go), I would usually recommend something nice but unusual that the other person would never get for themselves. I still believe that’s the secret to great gifts, but now that I’m not selling wine and spirits anymore, I can recommend what’s really on my mind: good fruit.
Gifted fruit is often confined to a basket, but fruit baskets are more about the massiveness of the basket than the quality of fruit inside. A Harry & David selection is certainly a kind gesture, but even deluxe apples, pears, and oranges are a little too ordinary to be gift-worthy. At least I can’t imagine eating them with the same urgency I would devour a box of fleshy Kyoho grapes from Korea, which, if this TikTok is to be believed, are worth the $80 price tag.
Exchanging fruit as a gift seems to be more customary in immigrant and certain religious circles, which makes sense because the best fruits come from abroad and fruit is central to a lot of religious lore. Depending on your crowd, a large box of mangos or an arrangement of Medjool dates might be in order, and if you’re sitting shiva, it’s standard to come with a selection of fresh or dried fruit.
Recently, a lot of fancy, borderline frivolous, fruit has appeared on the market, including perfect-looking Oishii strawberries, which are greenhouse-grown in New Jersey and come packed like a box of chocolates, or $30 pink pineapples, which appeal to both an innate desire for nature’s candy and a cultivated curiosity for luxury. But even for an indulgent person, these are far from a normal treat, which is why they make such a great thing to give someone else. The best gifts have an element of impracticality – it’s why you can’t replace fresh flowers with plastic.
If genetically-modified food isn’t your thing, you might enjoy an overnighted box of tropical produce from Miami Fruit, which has a rotating selection of seasonally available products from fresh cacao to tamarillo to an entire section of durian starting at $87 for a 3-ounce tray, though I am personally most intrigued by the large box of passion fruit for $127. Once, a customer at the wine shop said that they were attending a party centered around tasting a mixed box of exotic fruit ordered by the host. It sounded like a fun way to share the wealth before it rots, and I recommended bitter Campari as a pairing for contrast.
We are awash in so much mediocre fruit that it has lost much of its natural power. When real apples taste like styrofoam, melons have no scent, and berries are never sweet, a perfect piece of fruit can strike something primal, and leave a much better impression on someone you actually want to impress than a bottle of Veuve Clicquot or a bouquet of flowers.
None of the above applies to Edible Arrangements.