This wonderful fuzzy little ‘cucumber’ was one of the delights of my kitchen garden this summer. A smallish plump light green fruit with a furry or ‘downy’ skin and sweetish crisp flesh. The natural habit of the plants is to trail but it can be tied to grow over a climbing frame. Quick to crop, in around 60 days, they are also prolific and it seems the more they are picked the more cucumbers the plants produce. Most importantly they are absolutely delicious and do not get bitter even in extreme dry heat. I don’t think a meal has gone by, since they started cropping in early June, without them.
Kate from Hills & Plains & Seedsavers in Australia brought the seeds over with her last Autumn on her French visit and entrusted me with some of these heirloom beauties. Kate came by the seeds because the Radogna family of Bari, who had been growing this cucumber in Italy as Caroselli Baresi, brought seeds with them to Australia. One of the family, Silvio, who has been growing them for over 30 years in Australia passed some of the seeds on to Kate because he wanted to make sure that the seeds would be kept going and the cucumbers would be grown by other gardeners. Read Kate’s story of her encounter with Silvio and his cucumbers
I am so impressed with these heirloom cucs that I’ve started doing some research to find out more about them and discovered a whole family I didn’t know about, the Italian carosello type, a smallish fruit with a fuzzy skin and crisp flesh grown and eaten as a cucumber but botanically a melon, Cucumis Melo. If these Bari cucumbers are Italian carosello type, Cucumis Melo, I do have a slight problem with my seed saving plan this year because Melons cross easily. I had planned to save the seeds of these Bari cucumbers not least because I promised Kate, so I planted only one cucumber, the Bari, in the potager believing it to be Cucumis Sativus but I have also planted melons in the potager, so if the bari is a melon they could cross. The melons are not yet flowering so I still have time to pull them out to make sure the Bari do not cross with them. I also planted Armenian Cucumber in the polytunnel which is Cucumis Melo so I can only hope that the barrier of the polytunnel will have cut down the chances of crossing sufficiently not to endanger the Bari seed. If anyone can confirm which botanical family these Bari cucumbers belong to I’d much appreciate it.
Research paper A published paper on the varieties of Cucumber Melons still growing in Southern Italy.
There are a number of ‘cucumbers’ from Southern Italy and from Puglia in particular that appear similar in that they have fury skin and are small. I have found similar cucumber melons at a number of seed sources.
Cucumber Barese from Grow Italian
Described as: Light green, oval cucumber/melon from bari. White flesh. 4 inches long. Mild tasting and very productive. 70 or so days. Typical ‘downy’ skin of this type. Cucumber Carosello Barese from Mail Order Garden Heirloom Cucumber Barese Seeds from Bari produce a Light green oval melon type cucumber with White flesh mild taste and very productive. Carosello Baresefrom Gourmet Seeds Described as: Extremely tasty and very mild heirloom. Texture and flavor are very nice. Similar to Mandurian round cucumbers. Has no spines as a normal cucumber but light peach fuzz, as it is truly a member of the melon family with no bitterness or ‘burps’. When harvested young (as pictured), slice and use whole as you would a cucumber. If allowed to grow, it will begin to show ribbing and develop a thin skin, and the flavor will shift to a that of a mildly sweet melon. A wonderful ‘cucumber’, a best seller, and a huge hit on any table and a great novelty at market. Carosello Mezzo Lungo and other armenian cucumbers, carosellos and pickling melons from Solan Seeds