When you host a party, the key to success often lies in the food served. A basic fruit tray will appeal to those guests who are attempting to eat healthier foods and watch their calories. But an elegantly prepared, beautiful fruit tray will appeal to all the guests, even those who harbor no guilt when sampling from the pastry tray. Fruit tray assortments will vary according to the available fresh fruit and the theme of the party.
Choose fresh fruit that is not over- or under-ripe. Over-ripe fruit is soft, unappealing and prone to blemishes. Under-ripe fruit is less colorful and flavorful.
Select well-shaped fruit without bruises or damaged skins. Fruits with leafy tops that you want to keep attached, such as strawberries, should be selected for both the appearance of the fruit and its greenery. If the leaves are brown or torn or appear to have been nibbled by insects, the fruit should be discarded.
Pick a rainbow of colors. Do not choose fruit from just one color palette. The fruit tray should include reds, oranges, yellows, purples, blues and greens. Grapes and berries can be added to bring more colors to the fruit tray.
Rinse cut fruits that have a tendency to brown when cut, such as bananas or apples, in an orange-juice bath to minimize the browning. These fruits should be added to the tray just prior to serving.
Blend whole and cut fruit. Depending on the occasion and the theme of the fruit tray, whole fruit, such as a pineapple or a small bunch of bananas, can be added to the tray. Because the appearance of bananas will fade faster than other fruits (even rinsed), serving them whole will add to the appearance of the tray and offer guests bananas that are fresh for a longer period.
Wash the fruit in cold water and dry it before arranging it on the tray. Remove any dirt or insecticides that may be on the fruit. Washing it will improve the fruit's appearance and be healthier for the guests.
Cut or carve the fruit for added visual appeal. Melon can be scooped into balls instead of cut into cubes, and other fruit can be cut into decorative shapes. If this technique does not add to the visual appeal of your fruit tray, skip this step.
Keep grapes bunched on the stems. Although individual grapes may be easier for guests to pick up, grapes in small bunches (still attached to the stems) are more visually appealing on a fruit tray.
Arrange the tray's contents so that each fruit is next to a fruit of a contrasting color. Do not pile all the red fruits on one section of the tray and all the yellow fruit on another.
Break away from rigid symmetry. Although it might be tempting to position the fruit on the tray in an orderly fashion, once the guests begin selecting fruit, the tray will look messy. Arrange the fruit so it gives the appearance of a lush banquet feast where the fruit has been thrown across the tray in artful abandon.
Give height and depth to the fruit tray. Do not make the top of the fruit tray appear level or flat. Height should start at the back of the tray, with the fruit flowing forward to the front of the tray in graduating heights.