In Dining

Edible Arrangements are sometimes chosen instead of flowers. (PHOTO: Facebook)

What's up with Edible Arrangements?

For the ninth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee, presented by the restaurants of Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, dining guides, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as voting for your "Best of Dining 2015."

Tariq Farid must have had a massive "a-ha" moment when he originally came up with the concept to start a delivery service offering bouquets of both fruit and flowers.

Farid, whose family immigrated from Pakistan, owned his first business – a flower shop – in the '90s while he was still in high school. On the side, he also watered business' plants to contribute to his family's financial needs. Both of his parents worked a variety of odd jobs to make ends meets and his father spent years working night shifts at McDonald's.

In the late '90s, Farid dedicated a portion of his Connecticut-based flower shop to fruit sales. Eventually, he combined fruit and flowers in a new way, inventing a unique option in the gift-delivery industry.

Although fruit baskets and bouquets of fresh cut flowers were already widely available, Farid's idea went beyond that. He skewered decoratively carved melon balls, strawberries dipped in chocolate and attractive chunks of pineapple and arranged them like a flower bouquet.

Today, there are 1,200 Edible Arrangements world-wide, including three in the Milwaukee area – Brookfield, Whitefish Bay and Downtown. There's also one in Kenosha, Janesville, Madison and De Pere.

Sisters Wendy Falk and Tracy Schmid opened an Edible Arrangements franchise at 460 W. Silver Spring Dr., in 2011.

The busiest holidays for Falk and Schmid are Mother's Day and Valentine's Day.

"You'd be surprised, though, we get a lot of orders for Father's Day, too," says Falk. "Edible Arrangements are not just ordered by and for women."

Falk says people opt for Edible Arrangements over traditional flowers for a variety of reasons.

"Most of all, it's something people can share," she says. "It's brighter, more fun and a healthy alternative to candy, cake or cookies."

Edible Arrangements are also popular gifts to send to businesses and hospitals as thank yous.

Consumers' views on Edible Arrangements, however, seem to vary greatly. Prices range from about $40 to hundreds of dollars and are considered pricey by some. Also, because the same fruit is used in the arrangements regardless of the season, some people question its quality and freshness.

"Edible Arrangements are a great idea, but very expensive," says Milwaukee's Melody Jerabek. "And I know they use good fruit but I am sure it must be chemically grown or sprayed to look so perfect."

Although there are strict franchise restrictions that require owners to purchase most ingredients and packaging directly from the corporate headquarters, Falk says all of her fruit is ordered locally and arrives daily.

Patty Zastrow says her mother received many Edible Arrangements at the end of her life, and they were often just too much for her to consume.

"People always got those for my mom. The intention was good. They'd think, 'Hey, she likes fruit! She likes flowers! Let's combine this.' Plus, it's healthy to boot for an elderly woman," says Zastrow. "However, after receiving one, she'd always call me and say, 'Come over here and help me eat all this stuff before it rots.' It was way too much for a 90-pound lady and it does not keep well."

Milwaukee's Pam Parker has sent and received numerous Edible Arrangements and she's a big fan. However, she also agrees with Zastrow's statement that size needs to be taken into account when ordering them for elderly relatives who might not eat as much or have many visitors to share them with.

"I try to go with the smallest reasonable size because it can be too much fruit," says Parker.

Natalie Huess says her opinion of Edible Arrangements changed after she got sick and someone sent her one that recognized her love of pop culture.

"I thought they were kind of silly until I got one after radiation and I was home recouping. I really appreciated it then," says Huess, who is a cancer survivor. "My Edible Arrangement came in a Spiderman bucket. It had grapes, pineapple, chocolate covered bananas, chocolate covered strawberries. My friend Adan sent it to me. It made me smile, and it totally hit the spot that weekend because I didn't have any energy to really cook. So I sat there plucking stuff out of my Spiderman bucket."


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