One of the great solaces we have for midwestern winters is the arrival of citrus season! It’s finally the time of year when Wonderful Halos mandarins grace my grocery store hauls, which means my kiddos can help themselves to a fresh fruit snack, while I enjoy the cheery sight of bright-colored mandarins displayed in a bowl on my kitchen counter. I figured why not bring the fun to our holiday tablescape?
We teamed up with Wonderful Halos mandarins to bring you this holiday centerpiece idea, which can easily turn into an entirely citrus-themed tablescape with the addition of a super simple mandarin place setting. I like this project a lot because the mandarin towers are easy enough to make that my fiercely independent 5-year-old could join in without much assistance, and they are quick enough to assemble while dinner’s in the oven.*
*You can make these mandarin towers in the morning before a dinner party, but the kale will look the freshest if you assemble it closer to the time of displaying the towers.
–Wonderful Halos mandarins (We used four bags for two towers.)
-kale (I used one and a half bunches for two towers)
-styrofoam cones (I used this shorter cone and this taller cone.)
–u-shaped floral pins
-round toothpicks (must be pointy at each end like these)
–optional green leaves (the type of greenery you use is up to you!)
–optional scissors (helpful for trimming greenery)
–optional aluminum foil
Step One: Wrap the styrofoam cones with foil to protect both the foam and the kale. You can reuse the foam for another craft, but you probably don’t want food residue on it. Likewise, you can potentially use the kale after the fruit has been removed from the towers. (I’m thinking post-holiday green smoothies will most likely be in order!)
Step Two: Cut the kale into segments and use u-shaped floral pins* to secure the leaves onto the styrofoam cones. I was very fastidious with my kale placement, while my daughter Lucy was much less so, and in the end we discovered it didn’t matter too much! You might want to make sure the foil isn’t showing, so it doesn’t look so bad as the mandarins are removed—that is, if you’re planning to use these towers as an edible display.
*I was a bit worried about letting my preschooler handle floral pins, but they aren’t sharp like quilting pins. They’re more like long staples.Step Three: Attach the Wonderful Halos mandarins to the kale-wrapped towers by using toothpicks. I used two toothpicks per mandarin and inserted the toothpicks into the foam tower first, then pierced the mandarins into place.
Step Four: Place your mandarin towers onto decorative cake stands and use greenery clippings to further decorate the towers, securing the greenery in place with more floral pins. Little flowers would look nice too—even trailing ribbons for a frilly look!
This is the time to customize the look of your mandarin tower, and a chance to incorporate other colors you might be using on your holiday table. I like the idea of displaying the mandarin towers on a pair of rustic tree slice cake stands, or even an heirloom set that the rest of my family would appreciate. (You can purchase my cake stands here.) Lucy and I used extra mandarins and greenery trimmings to make simple place settings that really compliment the centerpieces. Then we filled out the area around the cake stands with bunches of eucalyptus trimmings. Any greenery would look great here, but I couldn’t resist the eucalyptus when I found some at my neighborhood florist shop! (We’re not so lucky to be able to forage eucalyptus here in Northeast Ohio, but pine trees are everywhere.)We used our mandarin towers as edible table decorations, and they were so popular with our girls that I plan to make something like this to incorporate into the next snack buffet I put together for a game night with friends. And why not? These towers are so easy to put together, and alongside an expertly arranged charcuterie board, all of our friends will think we’re très fancy! (Eh, they actually know better than that, but I’m sure they would appreciate the effort!)
Side note: As a mom whose hands are constantly full, I can 100% appreciate how easy it is for my girls to peel Halos mandarins without any help from me! I expected at least a little bit of whining, but they didn’t even once ask for my assistance before they began to peel the mandarins themselves. We were all pretty excited about that. (It’s the little things!)
Now that Lucy’s 5, she remembers the fun things from past Christmases, and has been asking if we’ll get to do them again this year. Advent calendars, gingerbread houses, hot chocolate movie nights, and now, I have a feeling, she’ll be asking me about mandarin trees in the years to come! –Mandi
Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.