You'll want to buy fresh fruit from the local farmer's market or directly from orchardists in your area. If those aren't accessible, go to a local grocery store that you know to have the best produce. Buy lots of fruit varieties including apples, oranges, pears, grapefruit, etc. Examine the fruit selection carefully and hand pick only the biggest pieces without bruises and blemishes. If there are any exotic fruits like pineapple, mango, and kiwi, pick up those too as they can make good accent fruits for your fruit gift basket. If you want to include smaller, more perishable fruits like strawberries and blueberries, you'll need to also purchase a hard container to protect them from getting damaged.
What Other Items Can I Put in a Fruit Basket?
In addition to fruit, you can add flavored mixed nuts, milk chocolate covered cherries, summer sausages, award winning garlic cheeses, dark chocolate covered almonds, yogurt covered pretzels, smoked salmon, pistachios, dried fruit, gourmet popcorns, honey wheat crackers, raspberry preserves, shortbread, salsas, chocolate covered toffee, a bottle of sparkling cider or wine, or any other gourmet items. If you know of a favorite food, even something as simple as a Twix candy bar, be sure to include that as it shows that you had your recipient in mind when you made the gift basket.
What About the Basket Itself?
A lot of people will find a simple wicker basket at a thrift store for their fruit basket gift. But remember, the basket itself will be the only thing left after the fruit and gourmet items are gone. High quality keepsake baskets will be put in your recipient's living room as a reminder of your kindness, cheap ugly ones will be thrown away quickly. So spend a few extra dollars on a nice basket and it will be showcased and be a reminder periodically of how much you care. Remember the value of a gourmet fruit basket is worth much more than just the dollar amount you spend.
Packing Materials You'll Need to Prepare the Fruit Basket
You can find all the packing materials you'll need at your local craft store. You'll need packing grass for cushioning and stabilization between fruit pieces, tape for, well a lot of things, gift tissue paper, heat-sealable plastic gift wrap, ribbons and bows. A note on the packing grass, you can use the green or other colored packing grass you would use in a typical Easter basket, but there are some really nice packaging grasses made out of thin shavings of wood that make a better presentation.
So How Do You Start Making the Fruit Basket?
Put about an inch of packing grass in the bottom of the basket to cushion the fruit. Wrap the biggest apples, oranges, and pears in two layers of gift tissue paper and pack the entire bottom of the basket with a layer of fruit. Wrap additional fruit for a second, third, and maybe a fourth layer. Your goal now is to create a pyramid of fruit, each layer getting a little smaller. Add packing grass between each layer with the top layer ending with only one or two pieces of fruit on the top. If the basket is circle, you'll end with one at the top, if your basket is oval, you'll probably end with two. The reason you will want to only use apples, oranges, and pears, is because you are building the foundation of your fruit basket, and you don't want to include fruit that will easily bruise or damage when you build on top of them.
Finishing up the Packing of the Fruit Basket
Now with your pyramid of wrapped fruit packed in the basket, think of how you will now use the remaining fruit and gourmet items to cover up the pyramid. Lay all your remaining fruit and gourmet items and decide which ones you'll use to build a layer all the way around the basket. Leave about one inch in between the items so that you can put the packing grass in between for protection and stability. Alternate fruit types, colors, and gourmet items as you place them. For example, don't put two green apples next to each other. You want your fruit and gourmet items to stay in place without the help of the plastic gift wrap so when it is removed, the fruit basket can stand on its own. Once you've finished the first layer, build the second, third, etc., until you cover your pyramid of wrapped fruit. Another nice accent is to take an orange and wrap it in gold foil and include that on one of the outside layers.
Sealing Up the Fruit Basket for Delivery
You will want to use a heat-sealable plastic gift wrapping to protect your fruit basket in transit. You can buy plastic gift wrapping in different colors and designs so look for appropriate themes for your gift basket occasion. An important note, when using heat-sealable plastic gift wrapping with edible arrangements such as fruit baskets, make sure that it is approved for direct food contact. Cut the plastic gift wrap to be three times the size of your basket. Place the fruit basket in the middle of the plastic and bring up the sides over the top of the basket handle. Secure the plastic and use the hot air from a blow dryer to seal the bag. Lastly, embellish your gift basket with ribbons and bows.