Creating a Thanksgiving Centrepiece.

Create a Thanksgiving centrepiece by using what is traditionally associated with Thanksgiving – the harvest.  Beets, apples, tomatoes and red cabbage make this modern take on a cornucopia a stunning focal point for the centre of your Thanksgiving table.



It’s beautiful.  It’s shockingly beautiful.  It is made entirely out of produce.   If grocery stores displayed their food like this it would be a disaster.  People would come in and faint at the beauty before they even bought any groceries. Although smelling salt sales would go up.  If the year was 1872.

Anyone can do a vegetable arrangement for the centre of their table, you don’t have to garden or have 3 matching zinc pedestals … you could do it on a platter.  Or a bowl.  Or basket.  You get the idea, because you’re quick like that.  I will have a few tips for you in a minute though that are important to the success of your faint-worthy vegetable centrepiece.




I actually bought these 3 zinc pedestals at a local kitchen store, but they’re a popular item that a LOT of independently owned kitchen stores carry across North America.    I found you something similar on Amazon, a 3 tiered galvanized cupcake stand, that would work great and costs less than my 3 stands totalled.


Which brings me to Tip #1.

Don’t do shiny.  Whatever you use as your stand or vessel should be dull looking.  When you think vegetable harvest and Thanksgiving you don’t think sparkle and crystal and glittery.  You think rustic and tarnished and worn.  The vegetable harvest at the end of the year is a lot of hard, dirty work and that’s kind of what your centrepiece should look like.  Not hard and dirty like a lady of the evening.  Hard and dirty like an old rusted combine.

When I first decided to do something of a modern day cornucopia for my Thanksgiving table this year I was convinced I was going to do it out of tomato leaves.  A big, long, runner of tomatoes leaves with sage and rosemary and all the herbs used in stuffing.  When you ran your hands over it it would SMELL LIKE THANKSGIVING DINNER!!!  A few vegetables here and there and it would be complete. It would most definitely make people gasp.  So I did a practice run with tomatoes leaves and herbs from my garden and people DID gasp.   Pink Tool Belt specifically.  We both inhaled sharply at the sheer hideousness of it.  It was.  Wrong.

So I rethought my plan and came up with the idea of doing a 3 tiered arrangement of all vegetables on a cake stands.




My first run at it produced something not quite as hideous as the great tomato leaf runner, but not the eyeball popping extravaganza of beauty I’d envisioned either.

At this point I was really beginning to question my future in the highly competitive world of vegetable floral design.

The first time I tried this I used all of the different vegetables from my garden.  Yellow Potatoes, leeks, orange carrots, bright red tomatoes, jalapeño peppers …  The result was something that would never make anyone, save for the most delicate of creatures, faint.  Which brings me to Tip #2.

Go monochromatic.  And DARK.  The dark red, Burgundy, green and purple in the final version of my Thanksgiving centrepiece are what make it work.  It all blends and has the same tones throughout.   The dark colours give it a moodiness you just can’t get with lighter colours or a lot of different colours.





It looks perfectly great without any flowers, but I wanted to add something flowery to it for one main reason.  Movement.  When you have trailing or winding flowers it brings the arrangement to life because it gives it the illusion of movement.  Not like it’s going to walk away but like it’s windblown.

And guess what?  Those flowers are actually food as well.  Amaranth. It’s a grain.

And that’s really all you need to know to make pretty much anyone faint at the sight of your Thanksgiving centrepiece this year.  Of course the best part about it is there’s no waste. Not of money or materials.  You’re decorating with food that, once Thanksgiving is over, you can eat.  And if you want to store the beets and carrots you used in your arrangement do it like this.

To take some of the guesswork out of it for you while out picking vegetables or rolling around the grocery store here’s a list of all the produce I used.

Thanksgiving Vegetable Arrangement Materials.

Red beets – $1.88 for 10 pounds on sale. So these were my filler. The things I used the most of.

Plums – Again, got them on sale and they’re a great colour

Red potatoes – garden


Local apples

Tomatoes – garden

Purple cauliflower – store

Purple carrots – garden

Red Cabbage – garden

Black Futsu Squash  – garden (seeds from Cubits)

Glass Gem corn – garden

Flowers – Green & Red Amaranth from La Primavera Farms at local market

Ornamental cabbage

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian readers.  Enjoy your roast turkeys, stuffing, gravy laden mashed potatoes and sweet, delicious pumpkin pie topped with dollops of luscious whipped cream this weekend.  And to my American readers … sucks to be you.



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  1. meg says:

    OMG I just saw this now, after reading your blog for years. (Well apparently not as consistently as I may have thought.)

    This is so gorgeous. *swoons*

  2. Paula says:

    I remember this one from last year, it is very beautiful. What happened to Margaret? Has she been ‘camouflaged’ for the photo?

  3. Chris says:

    Hi Karen – I made a version inspired by yours for my Thanksgiving table and had rave reviews from everyone who saw it (it really was pretty). Would you consider doing a version for Christmas? I love the white pears (pear collector from way back) but not sure what else you put together for your Christmas centerpiece (last year’s)?

  4. Nancy says:

    I read this as: “And that’s really all you need to know to make pretty much anyone fart at the sight of your Thanksgiving centrepiece this year.”
    Brain fart!!

  5. Lauren says:

    Far, far purtier than what I normally call a centerpiece….salt shaker and pepper grinder in a basket. I too am envious of the beet bargain. Made pickled beets from a neighbors harvest bounty a couple of years ago and they were far superior to the typical canned variety. Why are beets so spendy? And whats with turnips and parsnips being up there in the gourmet veggie price range?

  6. Tigersmom says:

    Stunning!! Those ornamental cabbages are amazingly beautiful. The items you used even look gorgeous in the tall dark vase in the in progress pics.

    And the tips you gave for not doing shiny and keeping it dark are excellent. Not everyone would have shared those, so thanks.

    And I feel you on the craft fail. It’s always especially hard to face when you’ve had an idea stuck in your head about how it is going to be and then you do it and it just. does. not. work. You roared back with a really beautiful success though!

  7. Beautiful. You may have another career path here – have you seen how much Paulette Tavormina photos sell for?

    • Karen says:

      Holy crap! Those photos are insanely good! Everything about them is astonishing! Yeah. Um …. I’m not quite there yet, lol. ~ karen!

  8. Lynn says:

    Have to say you out did your self Karen , an yes I know I am late to the party . My excuse my Appendix ruptured on Wednesday an I just got released . I was so looking forward to thanksgiving, always do I agree best holiday ever. This year I have to stay home to sore to be any company an just to much fabulous food I can not touch as of restrictions to diet. Really bad timing to have a tummy blowout . Just wanted to say wow loved your center piece.

  9. Barbie says:

    Great idea! I love it! I use amaranthus in almost all my arrangements ….think I may try to grow it next year in the garden. Also, like you…I want to use a part of my garden simply for “cut” flowers. As always thanks for the good ideas! Happy Thanksgiving.

  10. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Wow Karen…sorry I’m late but I had to tell you how gorgeous this is…everyone is right…It looks like an old painting…You may have outdone last years centerpiece…I know you are busy today preparing for tomorrow so I will say..Happy Thanksgiving to you and you your wonderful family…and…don’t eat the centerpiece….

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Nancy! And you’re too late. I already ate an avocado. I’m having dinner on Monday which means tomorrow is cleaning, table setting and food prep day. I can’t wait. :) ~ karen!

  11. peg says:

    BEAUTIFUL! thanks for sharing.

  12. Lesley Ann says:

    Stunning. Happy thanksgiving!

  13. Ann Brookens says:

    This is an absolutely gorgeous centerpiece! What are the fat caterpillar-y flowers trailing off the bottom? I noticed them in last year’s centerpiece, as well., and your post said you grew them.
    Happy Thanksgiving to all you Canadians!

  14. Bellygrrl says:

    Beautiful picture – love the spill of light from the side and the soft shine on the plums. Artsy-fartsy!

  15. Mia says:

    Also remind everyone to revisit the centerpiece from last year’s Thanksgiving; it too was a beautiful work of art!

  16. Karol says:

    Seems like everyone should have a Thanksgiving Day, just because we all have things to be thankful for. I’m very thankful for the smile I get 3 times a week from this blog.

  17. Sara says:

    This is also a good galvanized stand.

  18. Kathy says:

    Holding ice pack on forehead while I type
    Water dripping onto laptop
    Fainted at kitchen table

    I can’t thank you enough for your great writing and wonderful work!
    Sending lots of love and best wishes for Thanksgiving

  19. Teddee Grace says:

    Love it! A Great Masters still life. The tips were right on. You’ve been Pinned to my Autumn, Thanksgiving and Floral Design Pinterest pages.

  20. Sara says:

    Did you not take any pictures of the failures? I am dying to know what at tomato leaf runner looks like!

    • Karen says:

      I did! But it looks better in the photos than real life. In fact it doesn’t look nearly as hideous in a photo. It actually looks kindda good. Well, not good, but passable. That’s why I didn’t include the photo because it really didn’t show how gross it looked. ~ karen!

  21. Karin says:

    wow….. *swoon* just wow, that is the most beautiful thing i’ve ever seen on your blog. i’m blown away. i’m just gonna stare at it for the rest of the day. this is utter harmonious perfection. you are IT. enjoy gobblefest.

  22. Ev Wilcox says:

    Well, Happy Thanksgiving, Canadians! Was wondering, are you celebrating a pseudo “Feast with Natives” and pilgrims, etc? Do the children have the hats with buckles, etc? I think a general feast of produce and maybe a turkey would make more sense, at least for us in America, and call it Harvest Day or something! I doubt if any of our Native Americans feel like celebrating the day though. How about the Native Canadians? Anyway, I imagine your home will be charming and beautiful and the food wonderful! Have a great time!

  23. Linda says:

    Truly a beautiful center piece!! Happy Thanksgiving from Illinois to you.

    • Ann Brookens says:

      Linda, I’m from Lincoln, Illinois, myself! It’s nice to know there is another Karen fan instate!

      • Linda says:

        Ha Ann you are just a hop and a skip away from me, I’m in McLean. I love Karen’s blog. Nice to know we are both on Karen followers.

  24. Melissa in NC says:

    I added your faint worthy Thanksgiving centerpiece photo to my screensaver photos. Yes, I did. It’s in the mix with my sacred pics of my Grandson, and pics from adventures in Italy, France and Switzerland.

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family.

  25. This is gorgeous. I’m so bad at centerpieces and table setting. You make it look so easy!

  26. Ruth says:

    I have never decorated with food… Then again, we have no seasons to decorate for.

    At this point, could we just call #drought2015 a season and be done with it? Maybe decorate with bare tables and empty plates…. no, we can do cake. That’s it. We’ll decorate with cake… not carrot cake, since local carrots are non-existent and the imported stuff tried and fails at ‘carrot-ness’. Orange cake is off-limits too since all citrus trees have become shadows of their former selves.

    Plain cake it is. We’ll admire your handiwork… and go decorate with cake. Done. :D

  27. Jebber Jay says:

    That is so beaautiful that I want to paint it and frame it and I don’t even know how to paint or frame things. Photo numero uno is exquisite. :o) NIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIICE!!!! Enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend.

  28. Deb Brennan says:

    This year I’m especially thankful for discovering you and your blog Karen…I always look forward to seeing you in my inbox…and that’s sayin something!! We’ll be spending this glorious weekend for the first time at our beautifully rustic but cozy cottage on the Severn River…Gonna make a centrepiece from the treasures found on the property..probably not beets! Yours has inspired me to get creative. Happy Thanksgiving to fellow Canucks on the verge of turkey side effects..I feel a nap coming on….

  29. Edith says:

    Hi Karen – you’ve outdone yourself. That arrangement is beyond gorgeous! I almost fainted.

    • Karen says:

      Excellent. But “almost fainting” and “fainting” are very different, I’m kindda disappointed in myself. Are you sure you didn’t faint? Just for a split second maybe? ~ karen!

      • Edith says:

        Yes… might be right. There were several moments unaccounted for! I thought I was just mesmerized by The-Tower-Of-Thanksgiving-Beauty, but I must have fainted.

  30. Sandy says:

    Happy Thanksgiving!!

  31. marilyn says:

    really beautiful karen..

  32. danni says:

    wait….WAIT …10 pounds of beets for $1.88!??!
    around here it’s 3 beets tied together for $3.00!! That’s why I’m hoarding the ones in my garden, I will harvest those beauties in pre-dawn so no one knows I have them, why ask to be burglarized?
    And that centerpiece, ack! Ridiculously lovely and moody and that does it! next year amaranth will be grown!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Danni! Once a year in the falls beets, onions, carrots and potatoes usually go on sale for $1.88 for a 10 pound bag. I got 2 bags of onions too because my onions got some sort of neck rot this year and didn’t get any bigger than shallots. ~ karen!

  33. Michelle says:

    STUNNING GORGEOUSNESS! Honestly Ms. Bertelsen I am rendered speechless
    You are an artist, think Rembrandt, Renoir, in short, The Greats!
    And now you have the gobble off to look forward to.
    Rich and Full xx

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Michelle. :) Although the great Gobble Off was retired when the fella ran away from home I’m afraid. Now we do more of a performance art thing with chicken feathers. ~ karen!

  34. Heather says:

    Stunning! Happy Thanksgiving, Karen.

  35. Cindy says:

    So gorgeous! And can’t help feeling a little braggy when I say…I got to watch you do it in person last weekend at Lee Valley Tools in Kingston! Never mind that I actually approached your bench and made one myself. Thank you for that great session. If I could attach a pic of you, me and my sister-on-a-stick (which is where the pic would really come in helpful for those reading this), I would. That was a great idea of LVT to have you do a hands-on lesson. Not only did we learn how to make this thing of beauty, we heard about that great recipe involving wrapping logs of stuffing with bacon. I also picked up a great 2-stage knife sharpener that works like a dream. A salad-prep chef’s dream…I swoon now when I’m slicing tomatoes. Best of all: meeting you in person and getting to chat. And the tea towel (ssssh…I’m going to use it to wrap up my centrepiece and mail it to my sister in Nanaimo)!

    • Karen says:

      Cindy! You did a great job on your centrepiece! Say hi to your sister for me. Your real sister. Not your paper sister. ~ karen!

  36. Su says:

    lovely… really lovely…. Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

  37. Rose says:

    It is deliciously moody. Almost reminds me of the Johnny Cash video. But I would eat the arrangement instead of leaving it too long.

  38. Maura says:

    Amazing, I will give it a try!

  39. Angela says:

    Plus of Canadian Thanksgiving being earlier than American Thanksgiving: I can use all of your Thanksgiving ideas for myself, and have plenty of time to implement them. Except that we’re traveling this year for the holiday. Also, doesn’t suck to be American, as it’s Columbus Day on Monday, so we all have a 3-day weekend!

    And if you visit me in Germany for American Thanksgiving, I could take you to the Christmas markets, which all start that weekend!

  40. TucsonPatty says:

    I didn’t realize you Canadians ate the exact same menu as we Americans do for our own Thanksgiving. I do love the mashed potatoes and gravy. That centerpiece is a beautiful work of art.

  41. Kathleen says:

    The centrepiece is beautiful. We don’t have Thanksgiving here, EVER, so thanks… sucks to be SAFRICAN!
    However, there is absolutely no reason not to display the veggies I am going to us in the kitchen like this, just because I can! Is there?

    (Had a good chuckle at Violet Rose’s comments!) :)

    Ooooo, and pumpkin pie… yummy!

    Happy Thanksgiving Karen.

    • Liesl says:

      But we do Christmas like its nobody’s business.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Kathleen! That’s awful! Thanksgiving is one of the great holidays! If you can wrangle yourself up a turkey you could have a Thanksgiving dinner all by yourself. I myself have been known to make a second Thanksgiving dinner when the American Thanksgiving rolls around in a month or so, lol. ~ karen!

  42. Tracie says:

    Ahhh, so beautiful! Thanksgiving bounty at it’s finest…

  43. vicki says:

    that looks like a post-renaissance still life painting! all you’re missing is the dead quail. and random woodland creatures. still beautiful though ;)

  44. Violet Rose says:

    Oi! You forget to tell the southern hemisphere to suck it. I feel really left out.
    But you can suck on this – we’re in glorious spring with temps already in the 30 deg range, I think that’s around 75 f for you. So chill Canadian braggers, and oh you will soon enough.

    • Karen says:

      I’m fell bad I left you out. So a special, personalized suck it for you. Oh! And being Canadian means 30 degrees is … 30 degrees, lol. I think it’s around 82 but I’m not positive. 30 is what I like to see on the thermometer in summer, that’s all I know. I must say because it hasn’t even really got cold here yet, I’m ready for winter and fireplaces and snow. :) Ask me again at the end of February though. ~ karen!

      • Violet Rose says:

        Haha! Ok, I’ve been summarily foiled at getting a jealousy rise. I myself am a little green eyed at the thought of snow and fireplaces, my winter rarely gets below 10 deg at night and 16 in the day, white winters sound super cosy as does snowy Christmases. We will be roasting by then. Godzilla El Nino on its way apparently. Yikes!

  45. Paula says:

    The 3 tier stand link didn’t take me to one?

    • Karen says:

      Sorry Paula, it must only be available in the U.S. There are other galvanized stands on Amazon Canada but they’re outrageously expensive. Like $150 for one cake stand. :( ~ karen!

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