About a week ago, we celebrated the one year anniversary of our tornado. Hrm. “Celebrated” seems like a weird thing to say about a natural disaster. Observed? Marked the occasion?
Nah, we did celebrate it. On the Sunday afternoon immediately before the actual anniversary date, we have a very small party for those who helped us out following the tornado – a volunteer appreciation party. We had SO much help from friends – both the day of, and in the long months that followed – such a party was the least we could do to thank them. So.. we handed out free “thank you!” copies of Twisted: A Minneapolis Tornado Memoir, and fed them all.
In addition to the Low Country Boil, party sized Pavlova, and various crudités, I decided to make a watermelon fruit bowl. A carved, fancy one – though I’d never even considered the possibility before, much less actually made one!
Having carved pumpkins before (Nowhere near as professionally as The Pumpkin Geek, but passable!), I figured I had a good idea of what to do. It was fun, and I think it turned out well… so here’s how I did it!
Before you get started, take a good look at your watermelon – there should be an obvious top and bottom to it. Figure out how you want it to sit, and carve a small amount of rind off the bottom. It may take a few passes to get it to sit solid and level – you don’t want it rolling around as you work, or after you fill it!
Once watermelon has a solid base to it, draw your design on it. I used a Sharpie, fully intending to carve out anywhere I had drawn. In retrospect, a dry erase marker may have been a smarter idea.
Also in retrospect: Caladium leaves pull inward at one end, pointed at the other – sort of “heart” shaped. Whoops!
Carefully carve off the top of the watermelon. I aimed for all of the peaks/high points of my design, but you can aim a bit higher if you’re not feeling that confident. You can always carve more away, but it’s hard to add watermelon if you’ve carved away too much!
Once you’ve carved and removed the very top, scoop out some of the watermelon – for this design, I left about 1″ of red around the side walls. This was to allow for the red design to show through in the middle of the leaves. Because there is no need for extra watermelon flesh on the very bottom, I scooped it out almost down to the white rind.
Using a sharp knife – I used a good paring knife – carefully carve out the outer edge of your leaf design. Aim to keep your knife straight in, at a 90 degree angle to the surface you are carving – you’ll taper the edges later.
Once the outer edge has been carved, go back over it and carefully taper the edges in a bit. Clean up any rough edges on the green rind, and taper inward from there – creating a gentle, rounded edge to the white rind, into the red. Don’t taper it in at too shallow a slope, though – you’ll want plenty of red behind the middle of the leaf design!
Using the very tip of your paring knife, trace along one side of your leaf design marks, and then again on the other side of each mark. Take your time, and be gentle.
Well, not too gentle, anyway – you’re going to want to cut deep enough to get down into the white part of the rind.
Once you’ve cut the edges of the channel you’re about to make, carefully wedge the edge of your knife into one side of your new design lines. You’ll want to wedge it in almost parallel to the rind – not go deep with it. Life your knife a bit, pulling out a bit of rind. Not going to lie, this is fussy work and will take you a while if it’s you first go at it! Also, be careful not to stab yourself! It’s really easy to cut all the way through the wall, and right in to your hand. Trust me on this.
Continue carving out the edges of your leaf design, the whole way around. If some areas don’t pull up and out easily, you may need to re-cut the edges of the channel in those places.
Once all of your leave edges have been carved out, use your Sharpie/dry erase marker to draw the outer edge of what will become the white interior of the leaf design. (This didn’t show up so well in photos, due to glare… thank you, Photoshop!)
As with the channels for the leaf edges, trace the tip of your knife along the outsides of the new marks, and carefully carve out the green rind inside the designs. Try not to go too deep with it.
Because the exposed white rind is so wet, you’ll have to freehand the next bit. Leaving a bit of white rind around the edges, once again trace a shallow pattern with the tip of your knife, and carve the middle down to the red flesh of the watermelon interior.
Tah dah! Bastardized Caladium leaves!
Position your fruit bowl on a serving platter (the bottom will very likely leak moisture), and fill with your choice of fruit. Be sure it’s all ripe and sweet, NOTHING is worse than less than ripe fruit in such a display!
For ours, we used pineapple, watermelon, grapes, kiwi, mango, cantaloupe, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries…. garnishing with HUGE mint leaves.
Set it out and enjoy!