Friday, November 19, 2021

Refining The Light Carosello Leccese

Even with so many wonderful cucumber varieties that I can grow, deciding exactly what cucumber variety to choose to plant be difficult. Even though I had grown the Light Carosello Leccese before, it wasn’t until my friend Giuseppe found a new source for the Light Leccese that I realized that I could produce a more stable population of this variety.

While many regular cucumber varieties are bred to be marketable, many of the carosello cucumbers are not maintained as well. It is not that carosello varieties are not worth growing. It is just that many suppliers that produce seed in Italy do not invest the time or effort required to produce consistently high quality seed. As a result, what occurs is that two varieties will be grown next to each other and mix, creating an unknown cross, or that the seed producer will actually have grown a variety that was isolated from the others - but there was no time or energy invested to ensure that the specific variety had consistently desirable traits. As a result of these practices, there is an extremely high percentage of variability in most carosello cucumber seed.

Even the classic Mandurian Round Carosello that I offer is a combination of two different carosello varieties. One is smaller, grows on a bushy plant and produces fine textured splotched fruit. The other is a lighter variety that has no dark splotches. This second variety is more bumpy fruit appearance that grows on a sprawling vine. Over time I would love to separate this variety into its two sub-varieties – which is something that we may choose to do in 2022.

So back to the Light Carosello Leccese. Given the information that my friend, Giuseppe provided me, this specific population of carosello was highly consistent for producing light, fine textured, cylindrical fruit on a semi-bushy plant. I chose to start the seeds in soil blocks, then transfer the blocks into 10 inch hydroponic baskets. I would either find someone who I could lend me some space to grow them out in 5-gallon buckets, or I could find a location to transplant them into the ground.

Fortunately, around the same time I was getting ready to grow out this variety, I also started the raised bed gardens that I have been growing in. However, before I was done filling the second raised bed (where I planned on putting the hydroponic baskets, the plants were already too large to leave in the 5-gallon buckets. So instead of letting them get too warm, I started by placing them in the ground of the fertile garden.

I only left the plants in the fertile garden for a week or two because within that time, the other cucumber variety (the Meloncella Galatina) had begun to produce both male and female flowers. This meant that all female flowers that grew during the time the plants were in the fertile garden had to be removed.

Moving my plants for the second time was not too easy for the Light Leccese. Most cucumbers and melons don’t like their roots being moved once the seed is planted in the ground – and this instance was no exception. Rather than waiting until evening to plant them, I transplanted them into their new garden bed in the morning of a very warm day. As a result the plants suffered for about a week before they could really get back to where they were before I moved them. While not all the fruit that ended up growing from this variety was as consistent as I would prefer, it turned out to have a very consistently tender texture and exhibited a high quality. I saved the seeds of the most consistent plant (that which produced only cylindrical fruit with tender texture) to be able to grow out again in the future. I am currently planning on having a couple others help me with this project, so hopefully I will have plenty of high-quality and consistent seed for years to come.

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