We borrowed this idea for arranging blooming herbs in bell pepper vases from Sylvia Varney, co-owner of the Fredericksburg Herb Farm in Texas. During a tour of the farm, we spotted the vegetable flower holders on tables set for a bridal shower. Varney, who wrote Herbs: Growing and Using the Plants of Remembrance (Ironwood Press, 1998) with her husband, Bill, had come up with the idea only the night before.
“I was racking my brain for something that I could use that would be low, so they wouldn’t interrupt the flow of either food or conversation, and that the ladies could take with them,” she says. “I like to be environmentally friendly, and I hated the idea of having anything plastic or cardboard on the tables.”
Varney searched the produce warehouse for bell peppers with flat bottoms so that they wouldn’t topple over. When a pepper filled with water didn’t leak after standing overnight, she knew she had found her vases. She hollowed out the remaining peppers, filled them with water, and arranged flowering herbs in them. “I tried to keep the arrangement fairly compact so they wouldn’t get tippy,” she says. She also set the peppers in low white dessert bowls—just in case.
Varney suggests that many other fruits and vegetables may be used as vases; melons would be lovely for larger centerpieces. For the fall and winter holidays, she’s partial to the vibrant colors the bell peppers bring to a table, noting, “The bright greens and reds are particularly exciting.”