I had the opportunity to make arrangements for a lovely event last week, and the whole experience was completely dreamy, like being wrapped in the holidays. The warm, sweet scent of bay, the bright shiny redness of rosehips, the spice in the air from the chiles… is it time to feast yet?
These arrangements were made for a party celebrating the release of two fantastic new books — The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee and Edible Selby — but I think they would be appropriate for any fall and winter celebrations. They would be particularly perfect for Christmas, being red and green without being tackily RED AND GREEN.
For most of the arrangements I used bay laurel branches, rosehips, red chili peppers (my friend Emiliano told me what they're called but I already forgot — anybody know?), and black ornamental peppers. I also put together a tiny bouquet of thyme, mint, rosehips, and chiles. Everything was long-lasting and very affordable, especially compared to flowers.
These might even be affordable enough to make simply to brighten up your own kitchen (and cooking). Since I was making these for a party, I was more concerned with appearance than actual edibility. I got all of the elements for these arrangements at the San Francisco Flower Market, but a well-stocked farmer's market or grocery store should have some excellent (and guaranteed edible and even organic) options. Bay branches are pretty easy to find here in California, though they'll be a bit smaller than what I used, and I've seen chiles-on-the-stem at Bi-Rite and other markets. I was actually planning on using flowering oregano as the main element, but the market was out — maybe you'll have better luck.
I think flowers are always a great host(ess) gift, but if you do manage to make a similar arrangement using all food-safe plants, so much the better. It will be like one of my little herb bouquets taken to the next level.
A final little tip: though I removed all the leaves from the stems, of course, the water in the vases was filthy after only an hour. But after dumping the water, rinsing the vases, and adding fresh water, it stayed clear for at least 24 hours. Do a little check before your guests arrive!
(All images by Tess Wilson)