Friday, February 25, 2022

Mantids Mantids Everywhere

Ever since I was a child, I have loved praying mantids. As some of you may know, I previously raised exotic mantids as a hobby. Unfortunately, the amount of time this hobby required was so great, that I eventually had to give it up in exchange for gardening. While that was a challenge, it was also a huge blessing. Raising mantids was often a headache and the time required was not worth the benefits. Gardening, on the other hand has been much more rewarding for me and it is much easier to keep seeds alive than insects that require other live insects in order to survive.

Perhaps because of my obsession with mantids, I tend to find them everywhere. To prove the point, here are some pictures of when I found mantids or mantid eggs in my garden, at a local park, on a hike, when visiting a local farm, while on a plane and while visiting family in Colorado.

Here is a mantid egg case I found while cleaning up cucamelons in one of my gardens.

While I was taking a walk at our park in September, I found this mature girl who had fallen from a tree. I made sure to put her in a safe place with plenty of flowers.

On another occasion during a hike with the family I found this ootheca, which I am pretty sure is an ootheca of a ground mantid. It was much smaller than the similar Mediterranean Mantid.

A local farmer agreed to grow out some of my cucumbers. On the way into his farm I found this mantid on his gate keypad.

On yet another occasion, while sitting on a plane that was getting ready to take off, I noticed a mantid on one of the wings. He did a good job of hanging on to the wing for while the airplane moved to the runway, but he wisely decided to leave before traveling too far from home.

Finally, here is a beautiful mottled specimen I found on a currant bush at my in-laws home in Colorado.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Emanuele Larosa’s primarily Dark Carosello Leccese

There are both positive and negative things to growing in my greenhouse. The main positive thing is that I can grow varieties in isolation to determine their color and, occasionally, their taste. Additionally, I am able to conduct other cucumber trials without concerns about crossing any of my varieties. In 2020 I decided that I needed to know exactly how dark Emanuele Larosa’s Carosello Spuredda Leccese was, so I decided to grow it out in my greenhouse.

To keep things simple, I often grow in my greenhouse in the early spring or late fall. I also utilize 10” hydroponic baskets to ensure that I am able to completely trade out the soil each time I grow in the greenhouse. The downside of 10” hydroponic baskets is that the plants do not have enough room for their roots. Once the plants get to a certain size, they will put on fruit, but will not put on multiple crops similar to what they would do if grown without restriction. Additionally, due to the plant being stressed by lack of space, the vines rarely produce fruit with the same shape as when it is grown in the garden. Because of this, two of the main things that I use the greenhouse for is to check fruit taste and fruit color. Despite a lot of other things suffering as a result of vine stress, the taste and color of C. melo cucumbers remains generally stable.

The purpose of growing out this variety was to determine if the fruit that it set would be completely dark. After the female fruit set, I found that it had some light blotchiness, similar to other dark carosello Leccese varieties I had grown in the past.

The taste and texture were fine, but also not what I was looking for. I was grateful for the experience to help me make sure that this was not a variety that I wanted to pursue.

Friday, February 11, 2022

SeedSelect Strikes again with a Spotted Spuredda Leccese

Of all the Italian seed companies I have acquired seed from SeedSelect has to be the most mixed-up of them all. In all the times I have grown their varieties, I honestly don’t recall ever getting a fruit that looked exactly like what was on the label. Sometimes this can be extremely frustrating. If I were a regular gardener, this kind of inconsistency would drive me crazy. However, if there is sufficient biological deviance, beautiful things can happen.


My friend Giuseppe grew out a Carosello Barese several years ago that had flecked dark spots on them. While the fruit was beautiful, we were unfortunately not able to save the seed – even after I tried growing out many seeds from the same packet. For all I knew, the flecked Carosello Barese was lost to the world.


Given that there is generally a high level of variability with carosello cucumbers and given that I had observed some really off-type cucumbers from SeedSelect before, I decided to try growing out the Spuredda Leccese SeedSelect once again. Not knowing that I could produce anything like my friend’s flecked Leccese, I planted a couple more seeds of this variety and hoped for the best.


Imagine my delight when I began seeing flecks on the skin. I was so very happy. While in gardening, I have come to better understand the carosello and other immature C. melo cultivars, this was just an incredibly fortunate tender mercy. I was both surprised an honored by the gift of a second chance. I did all I could to save the seed and pass it on to my friend, Giuseppe. 

While there is still a possibility that my friend and I could lose the speckled or flecked Spuredda Leccese again, I truly hope that we can preserve it to be enjoyed by future generations.

Friday, February 4, 2022

The Bitter Truth about Asian Pickling Melons

Occasionally I do variety trials. One of the variety trials I decided to conduct was a pickling melon variety trial. For this one, I grew out all of the pickling melons that I could find and grew them out to their first true set of leaves. Then I tasted the leaves for bitterness. All but two of the pickling C. melo varieties that I grew had very bitter leaves (a clear indication that bitter fruit would follow). So I only grew those varieties out for a short while.



The least bitter pickling melons were spared and grown until they were much larger. At this point, I tasted the leaves and stems and found them to be bitter, so I pulled them too. 

I am sure that there are some types of pickling melon that are not bitter, but I have yet to find them – yet.