BANGKOK-It is a royal tradition that has proved bountiful through the ages and one that Thailand's fruit carvers are determined to keep alive - even as young people peel away from the unique art form.


From beetroots carved into roses to fruity floats made from papayas and melons, the most important fruit carving competition in Thailand took place in Bangkok Friday.


But for competitor Piyanat Thiwato, carving is about more than just winning.


"Carving can improve our mind because it requires concentration and enhances our imagination, it's a way to relax," he said.


The tradition has been traced back to Thailand's royal Sukhothai dynasty, in the 14th century.


"The art of food carving started hundreds years ago. Thailand is rich with arts and crafts. It's like a very beautiful treasure that we have," said Araya Arunanondchai, the event's organiser.


"In the old days, it was done in the royal palaces for the royal family," she added.


Dozens of Thai artists competed in the famous fruit and vegetable carving competition, which was organized in honor of Queen Sirikit, who turns 85 on August 12.
More than 20 teams carved anything from owls to elephants or intricate Thai designs onto fruits including taros, melons, and papaya.
Fruit carving is still popular as an offering in temples or as a decoration for weddings. Fine arts students can still choose to learn it at university, as they would take painting lessons. But the tradition is fading away.
"Not so many young people are interested in it or the ones who studied it in art schools cannot make a living out of it", Manirat Svastiwat na Ayutthaya, food carving expert said.