cherry tomato ladybugs on white plates

By Susannah Felts

Here in Tennessee, we’ve been thrilled by the daily ripening of cherry tomatoes from our incredibly large, sprawling Super Sweet 100 cherry tomato plant. My daughter Thalia likes to pop them in her mouth right off the vine — and so do I. When I manage to squirrel enough away before they get gobbled up, we usually enjoy them in some of my favorite pasta dishes. But this week, we put a few to use in a totally new way: as food art.

It all began when I came across some absolutely incredible food art pictures online and realized what a fun activity something like that would be for me and Thalia. We both love watching all the helpful bugs in our garden, so we decided to make cherry tomato ladybugs—the perfect choice, in my view, since I often call her “Bug” (short for “Lovebug”).

My pint-sized contrarian balked at first, saying she would make ladybugs out of paper while I worked with the tomatoes. But she quickly came around, and by the time we got home from the grocery store with the additional supplies we needed (black peppercorns and black olives) she was eager to jump in.

young girl photographing cherry tomato ladybugs
I wasn’t the only one who wanted to photograph our cute creations!

I’d already collected a bowlful of cherry tomatoes earlier that morning, but we headed back out to the garden to gather a few handfuls of flat Italian parsley. Together, we arranged them on a big plate, grouping two or three leaves for each ladybug-to-be.

Next, Thalia placed half a tomato on one group of leaves. I poked a few holes in the tomato with a toothpick and gently pushed a peppercorn into each one. Then Thalia place a half olive against one end of the tomato. Voila — a ladybug! Almost.

The only thing left was the antennae. “I wish I could use the knife,” Thalia said. I told her she could if she was very careful. So as I watched, she cut parsley stems into little green strips, which slid nicely into the black olives. Pretty soon we had a plateful of cute ladybugs.

I didn’t expect her to eat our creations — they’ve got whole peppercorns in ‘em, after all — but we had a great time making them together. What’s more, I think any opportunity for kids to get their hands on fresh veggies teaches them that those veggies should be an important part of life. Time to find a few more clever ways to make edible art!