Vegetable and fruit carvings have been noted in the Oriental countries of Japan, Thailand, and China for centuries. Although the exact origin is disputed, as the Chinese argue that the art form was created during the Tang Dynasty, (AD 618-906), and the Sung Dynasty- which followed. But ultimately, this art form has become known as "Mukimono"- which is "the traditional Japanese art of decorative garnishing", and has been practiced since ancient times. To this day, it is a highly regarded practice in these countries- specifically watermelon carvings. I have been simply awestruck coming across some of the amazing pictures I've seen!! So, I have been determined to create my own masterpiece and the above pictures were my result! (Let me just tell you that it literally took me hours to do this- for real!! So if you attempt to do this, make sure to set aside plenty of time to work on it!)
The process is quite similar to carving a pumpkin, except, you need to:
1) first determine if you will solely use this as a centerpiece, or for a fruit presentation. If using as a centerpiece only, you would not cut it open and hollow it out. If using as a fruit "basket", then you will need to figure your design first before cutting into it, etc.
2) Choose your melon; Large or small? Is your design horizontal or vertical? Place the melon on a flat surface to see how it naturally sets as a starting point.
3) Choose your design. (If carving a design, you can use the same templates as you would a pumpkin.) For a party or holiday, is there a theme? Since the melon has 3 layers, will you need to remove the peel for your design?
4) Tools: Carving tools used for pumpkins work, as well as a chef knife, and small paring knives.
5) Get creative!! The sky is the limit, and just have fun with it! You don't have to be an expert "Mukimono" artist to carve a watermelon. Start with something more basic as your first one, and go from there! (If you need a break while carving, wrap your melon with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator, or leave out at room temp.)
To learn more on the art of Mukimono, go to: www.mukimono.com/