Monday, August 13, 2018

Caroselli

As I have been very busy with other things in my life, I have not been able to update my blog as much as things have been growing. Having three gardens that I am working in has really stretched my abilities to make sure I am staying on top of the carosello varieties I have been growing and to ensure that I keep each variety pure.

So, here are a few caroselli that I want to provide updates on:


The Tondo Tarantino: Most of my Carosello Tondo Tarantino have begun to fruit now. I'm looking forward to the taste. I believe something about growing onions depleted the soil a bit, but I added some ammendments and it came back to life. Birds keep pooping on the plants and I have been struggling a bit with downy mildew, which I believe may have been brought over by the birds - or at least the bird poo is not helping the situation. A very nice looking carosello though.








Carosello Tondo Tarantino



The Mandurian Round: I started a late planting of the Mandurian round from two different sources to see how the fruit or growing pattern might be different based on the seed source. They are struggling a bit in the heat, but steadily growing. The fruiting stage can be very difficult if the plant does not receive adequate water. The Easy Ollas are helping, but the water needs at this stage can be pretty demanding.





The Unknown oval Mandurian/Massafrese variety: The shape of this variety continues to be mostly oval, but the color has darkened over time. It did not start out dark, but became very dark over time. It looks more like a Massafrese, but I really can't tell. I may have to grow it next to a massafrese later to be able to determine the differences.









The Carosello Spuredda Taratino that turned out to be what I am going to call the Meloncella Fasciata: For reasons that I'll gladly share with anyone who would like I will not refer to this as a carosello variety, though in every way it is. This variety is pretty consistent. Almost all of them have been relatively solid dark with light stripes and exhibiting very few light splotches. Given the majority of the fruits produced on the plants of this variety are the same, the seed of this variety will most likely be relatively stable. I will see if I can possibly grow in a few more plants to sneak them in before the weather cools down. The current pictures reflect the fact that the fruit is now in its seeding stage. Note: as these fruit are now mature and producing seed you would not really eat them at this point. While younger, almost all of them produced very uniform cylindrical fruit. I couldn't be more grateful at finding this variety!



Meloncella Fasciata



Meloncella Fasciata


The Carosello Barese that is mostly just Carosello Barese: This is a variety that my friend Giuseppe found some dark spotted variants in. So far the fruit produced has been mostly - well just the normal Barese. We will see if anything else interesting reveals itself. If not, there are plenty of friends and neighbors that would probably enjoy some Carosello Barese for lunch or dinner.









The Spuredda Leccese that turned out to be something different: I had suspected for some time that some sources of the seed of Spuredda Leccese are not necessarily pure. This leads me to believe that if another seed saver and I work on it, we could come up with a more palatable alternative to the Carosello Polisello. For now, I just hope you enjoy seeing these pictures.










As one final note: I work very hard to only sell carosello that are stable, true-to-type varieties. This means that I cannot offer something to the general public until I make sure that the seed I sell does not grow too many off-type carosello. Though some of the more exotic varieties you see may eventually make it into the little CucumberShop, I work hard to not release any carosello variety until I feel it is stable and worth growing.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Chicken Garden Update

And now we will revisit the garden of my friend with the chickens.



 


The chickens are quite fun to watch when they are eating, even though it times it looks like they are walking in circles.






As I have been growing in this very infertile ground, I have been adding lots of amendments. Over time, the plants have been growing much faster.








When I planted this garden, I thought I would try growing a few regular cucumber varieties. Here are a few pictures of the Northern Pickling cucumber variety.




















At the same time, I really enjoy seeing what the same kind of Carosello from different sources grow like. Here are some Carosello Spuredda Leccese (the dark cylindrical carosello). Although it is apparent that most of the maturing flowers are dark, the shades, shapes and patterns of the fruit do seem to be a little different from each seed source.


















Though growing is a bit slower in this garden than the other, I have enjoyed the extra gardening space immensely. If my friend allows for me to garden here again, I will make sure to work a lot more on prepping the soil this next season.




California Fires

Usually I do not post about something not related to gardening, but the fires have been so constant and continuing to get closer and closer to my area, that it has been difficult to talk about my garden without talking about Mediterranean-type climate in which we live.


A picture of a fire taken from my front yard in July



Each winter we have cool humid conditions that, if we are fortunate, bring enough rain to help the state get through the next year.



In this picture, you can see the flames


During the summer, the grasses and chaparral dry leaving the ground prime for fires. Long ago before settlers came, native Americans burned thousands of acres of land in order to ensure that the land was clear of underbrush.



A nearby fire, as seen from the fertile garden today



Unfortunately, as time has gone on without fires and the climate has become warmer, it has become incredibly difficult to keep fires under control.



The same fire, as seen from our front yard


Within the last 18 months we have had three fires near our home. Each day I am grateful for those who risk their lives to keep us safe from the fires. I hope they will all be safe and well.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Blessing of Deviation

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to be “deviant” is to stray or deviate from an accepted norm. When we think of someone being deviant, it often leads us to think of someone who is trying to cause trouble or who is simply up to no good.


How many carosello cucumbers do you see? (Answer at the end)


With plants, it is a bit different. There is often a deviation, much like a statistical deviation, that can either be greater or lesser, depending upon how different from each other a specific plant’s parents and grandparents were from itself. Most modern agriculture looks at deviation as a very negative thing. Since the early 1900s, the growing agricultural industry has worked to develop vegetables that are more and more uniform so that when you go into the grocery store you know you will get a completely round, red, average-sized tasteless slicing tomato.



Carosello Tarantino


Carosello Tarantino, cut to expose inside flesh.


However, deviation was not always viewed as such a negative thing. If it were not for deviation, most of the plants that we eat from the brassica family would never exist. In fact, it was the very fact that plants like wild mustard have some degree of variance that allowed early farmers to select and cultivate otherwise unproductive plants into the many vegetable varieties we have.


What will these female flowers from the same plant become?


So, how much variance should we tolerate, as gardeners and food consumers? Though this is a purely hypothetical question, it is one that continues to pit dedicated gardeners and scientists (who desire to preserve unique plant varieties) against big agriculture that promotes and sells consistency (though they take advantage of huge amounts of deviation in order to continue to develop their products). As for me, I prefer a small amount of deviation so that I do not have to wonder about the size, shape, color, and flavor of the fruit along with the growing habits of each cucumber plant each time I plant a seed. That being said, deviation can be incredibly good for even the less-tolerant gardener. For example: what if the one plant that looks a little different from your other plants survives a devastating blight? All of a sudden the plant that was a nuisance is now the only one you want to save seed of.



Will they look like the Meloncella Fasciata?




Or will it look like this?


The main reason why I bring this topic up is because each seed saver and home gardener should really think about what they value in the crops they grow so that they will ensure that they and those who follow will be able to continue to have food and variety. Perhaps God made plants and animals to have some amount of deviation so that they could thrive and bless the world with majestic beauty. Perhaps a healthy dose of deviation is truly a blessing.


And the answer is....        6!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Breaking News

After looking for so long, we have found the cylindrical splotched Carosello Tarantino!



For those of you who do not really care about cucumbers, you may question, what does it really matter if my cucumber looks pretty - but for those of us who are passionate about the finest cucumbers - it is monumental to find something like this!





It has been years that I have been searching for something like this. That being said, if this variety cannot get me any closer to my desired Meloncella Faciata (a cylindrical all-dark green variety with light stripes) I will have to publicize the search with prize money until I find it.





All of my thanks does need to go to my friend Giuseppe, who has stuck with me - and trusted me - through all of our hard work and frustrating (and often delicious) failures.




Next door to the two Carosello Tarantino plants is this variety. I'm not quite sure what it is. I received this variety six years ago from Italy. I made sure to hand-pollinate all of the fruit and kept it isolated through an elaborate scheme that I am sure to discuss later. The closest relation to this would be some form of oval Mandurian Round or a Carosello Tondo Tarantino. I really can't tell.





Whatever it is the variety is not stable - meaning the color or another attribute does not remain the same from one plant to another. I harvested a few of its less colorful neighbors to try them out and, based on the flavor, I am highly impressed.





Given that the oval Carosello variety will cross with the Carosello Tarantino, I am diligently removing all of the male blossoms.





Based on the smaller very interesting blossoms of the Carosello Tarantino - which that are oval and elongated - I'm not really sure what to make of this cultivar. If we can stabilize the variety, it would be an incredible addition to the carosello varieties that we (the public) have access to.





Party Time! I'm usually pretty laid back, but given the news I decided to throw a party to celebrate. We're having the friends of my children come over to swim in our pool as well as to enjoy pizza, popsicles and technology. This may all seem quite eccentric, but if you had been working and waiting for years to find something you would celebrate too!

 
(Notice the Armenian and unknown carosello slices behind the popcorn)