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On the Job

‘Fruit artist’ puts her skills on display

Iris Matos carves fruit into bouquets and other creations as the production manager at at Edible Arrangements.

Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff

Iris Matos carves fruit into bouquets and other creations as the production manager at at Edible Arrangements.

Iris Matos calls herself a “fruit artist,” priding herself on beautifully arranged bouquets and arrangements of sculpted fresh fruit that she creates for Edible Arrangements in Methuen.

“Fruit is so delicious and healthy, and making the fruit into lovely creations that people can enjoy is a lot of fun,” said Matos, whose official title is production manager.

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Fruit has always been important to Matos, 40, who is of Puerto Rican descent. She grew up visiting the island, grabbing mangos from the trees in the backyard and eating kiwis fresh from produce stands, so she loved the idea of taking fresh strawberries, pineapple, grapes, oranges, cantaloupe, and honeydew and making them into centerpieces or gifts.

Matos and her team of fruit artists typically create 25 to 30 arrangements a day, but can craft as many as 200 during the holidays. That’s a lot of bananas dipped in white and semisweet chocolate.

What is the process of turning fruit into a decorative piece of food?

The fruit needs to be cut to a certain size and shape, skewered carefully, and balanced in the final basket or container so that there are no empty spaces. I make sure the fruit isn’t bruised, soft, or moldy. It takes practice to get it right.

What’s your favorite design?

I love the long-stemmed chocolate covered strawberries that are hand-dipped in white and semisweet chocolate. They look just like roses and are very stunning.

How do you ensure that the fruit is fresh?

Fresh fruit is delivered daily, and put in a big walk-in cooler. We have sinks that are dedicated to cleaning fruit only. The bananas, strawberries, or apples are washed and dried, then put on trays.

Is it difficult to cut fruit into uniform pieces?

Different knives are used for different fruit, depending on the builder’s preferences. I have five different types of knives. A sharp knife is so essential.

How do you get different shapes out of the fruit?

I have a pineapple cutter that will stamp out the shapes, whether it’s a star, heart, or Mickey Mouse. Other fruit are hand-cut, although kiwis in particular are hard to peel and cut.

Were you affected by last year’s cantaloupe recall, when there was an outbreak of dangerous bacteria on melons?

We checked with our fruit vendor, and the melons we were using were safe. But initially it was a concern, of course.

Is it OK to take a nibble of a piece of fruit while you’re working?

Absolutely! I actually try to taste everything daily to make sure it’s fresh. So I’m always eating fruit, except when I go home. I can only take so much fruit.

Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at cindy@cindyatoji.com.
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