For those of you who are not familiar with northern California, let me tell you a few things. The climate here enables us to grow a huge variety of plants. However, along with the plants come the pests. Pests can come in the form of weeds, slugs, bugs or squirrels. Squirrels are the #1 reason why I cannot grow such wonderful things as lettuce and spinach in my winter garden – and squirrels are exactly why I got a late start on my round Carosello Massafra.
So what do these fuzzy friendly furballs do? If these critters are hungry, they will eat the plant. But more often, squirrels will find something tasty (such as a nut) that they want put somewhere secure to ensure that it is available in the future. They will find a spot in the garden, “Oh look at this nice soft soil with a newly transplanted Carosello plant”, and they will dig down into the loose soil to bury their treasured nut. A few days to a week later, they will go back to the scene of the crime and, instead of attempting to get their treasure from the exact same spot - they will dig into the soil from a different angle to ensure that whatever vine that was carefully planted nearby is tossed aside to wither and die. Note to self: Grow 50% more transplants then I need for the squirrels to destroy. It is safe to assume that, though I tolerate them in the summer, squirrels wreak havoc in my winter garden.
With that explanation, you have probably gathered that I had to – at least in part – replant my Carosello Massafra. This is exactly the case. There I was, early in the season, with half of my plants destroyed and big gaps in my garden that I would not be able to fix - except by starting some new transplants. This is how a cucumber variety that should have only took half of the season to grow ended up taking much longer.
The Carosello Tondo (or Round) Massafra is a bitter-free digestion-friendly melon (C. melo) that is picked immature. The Tondo Massafra comes from a little town by the name of Massafra in a province of Taranto in the Apulia region of southeast Italy.
The Massafra has a tender skin and contrasting light and dark longitudinal stripes set it apart from many other cucumbers. The fruit remains slightly firm on the outside, yet juicy and tender/crisp on the outside from the time it is about golf-ball size to the size of a very large peach. The fruit will stop growing and the texture will dull slightly when the plant begins to set seed within the fruit.
As the seed develops, the pulp inside eventually becomes soft and the gelatin coating that covers the seed begins to dissolve. Though the fruit will slip from the vine and many of the fruits will often change color, one of the best ways to determine ripeness is by smell and touch. When the fruits begin to smell sweet and the top and bottom of the fruit (near the poles) begin to feel soft, you know it is time to harvest the seed.
The Tondo Massafra is one of my very favorite Carosello to grow. It grows in a bushy manner, matures quickly, and is relatively productive. The fruit is always fun to look at and is good enough to make any who sample it fortunate if they can save some for sharing with others.
the results of squirrel shenanigans meant that the season did not
progress in the way that I had hoped, I am still very grateful for the
harvest of these beautiful and rare Carosello cucumbers.