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A feast to the eyes and taste buds, fruit art is as fun to eat as it is to look at! In honor of Tu B’Shevat, let’s take a closer look at the art of fruit carving
Wednesday, February 08, 2017
When my oldest daughter was born, my very excited mother-in-law carved a watermelon into an adorable baby carriage in honor of her first grandchild. When I saw the intricate details such as the wheels, hood, and carriage handle she’d formed, I knew it wouldn’t only be the centerpiece at the Kiddush, but the most popular conversation piece as well!
While there’s some debate over whether the art of fruit carving originates from China, Japan, or Thailand, it definitely seems to have started someplace in Asia before catching on in Europe.
Depending on the nature of the people and surrounding culture, fruits were carved into different designs such as flowers, animals, characters, objects, and even people, to mark a special occasion.
Long ago, when the import/export route took weeks or months to traverse, people could work only with in-season produce. Therefore, Europeans mostly carved vegetables such as radishes, beets, onions, and cabbages, while Asians had more access to melons and papayas.
Today, frum fruit carvers have adapted Jewish themes to mark milestones unique to our culture. At a bar mitzvah, for example, a watermelon can sport tefillin carvings; at a wedding the focal point may be a watermelon chuppah, complete with grapes twisted around the poles; at a hachnassas sefer Torah, there’ll be Torah-themed carvings.
There are two basic ways to carve fruit — skin carving and three-dimensional carving.
Skin Carving is when the outer skin of a fruit is carved into a specific design to reveal the contrasting color at the fleshy center (this method is often used for melons).
“This is the simpler method of fruit carving,” explains Mrs. Chana Bena Margareten of Pri Hadar fruit-carving business in Monsey. “You have to follow a pattern and get the right amount of skin cut and peeled, but you don’t actually have to cut a fruit into a shape, which needs a lot more skill.”
Three-Dimensional (3D) Carving is carving the fruit into a 3D object (like a basket, for example).
Both methods allow the option of leaving fruits almost entirely intact (such as when a papaya is carved into a tulip), or using fruit slices to form shapes (like cantaloupe roses).
“I’m always on the lookout for pretty pictures I can use for fruit carvings,” Mrs. Margareten says. “When I attach the template to the melon, I have a pattern to follow, and it gives me beautiful results.”
Sometimes mosdos or businesses will give her their logo to work with, as the focal point for a fruit platter. Very often both forms of fruit carving will be used to create a spectacular piece of fruit art. This is especially popular with big watermelons!
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