Friday, March 8, 2024

My favorite Mezzo Lungo Barese and Polignano

After growing out an unknown carosello cucumber variety, I decided to try out a Mezzo Lungo Polignano carosello variety in the 1-yard grape bin. This variety was one that I had tried out previously in 2021. In fact, I labeled the specific population, which was provided to me by an Italian gentleman named Angelo, for a future Mezzo Lungo Polignano trial.

























The context for the Mezzo Lungo Polignano name is this: In southern Italy, melons have been grown immature as cucumbers for thousands of years. Though these cucumber-melons are called by many different names, to the outside world they are known as “carosello”. A specific town or village will often grow their own specific carosello cucumber variety. In order to distinguish the variety from a carosello in another area, the name of a specific variety may include a specific trait of the cucumber, but almost always include the origin of the variety. ‘Mezzo Lungo’ means ‘half long’. That part of the variety name may have originated from being compared with length of the local ‘Tortarello’ or local snake melon. There is a Mezzo Lungo from Barese, which tends to be slightly longer and a Mezzo Lungo from Polignano, which tends to be a bit shorter. Both are known to be very fuzzy, crisp cylindrical cucumber varieties.
















Fuzzy fruit is the primary reason why I had made a note to grow the specific population of Mezzo Lungo from Angelo again. This population, which was named variety #3, sprouted well. In order to give the unknown variety more time to mature, I started the Mezzo Lungo Polignano seedlings in ten inch hydroponic baskets until they were large enough to require planting into the garden. They grew very well and matured quickly. They began setting fruit in early August and by late August, the fruit varied from being ready for fresh-eating to ripe for seed-saving. Unfortunately, there was a bit of variation in fruit color and length. But the color variation was rare and I eliminated as much of that fruit as I could. On the positive side, the fuzziness was quite thick and pronounced, the fruit was crisp, but much juicier than any other Mezzo Lungo varieties that I have tried. For a Mezzo Lungo, the flavor was quite good too. As a result, I decided that this population will become the foundation for my future Mezzo Lungo Polignano (short) and Mezzo Lungo Barese (long) carosello varieties.





















Despite all of my faults and mistakes, I am grateful that I can try out different carosello varieties. Even different populations of the same variety – provided to me by various growers and seed companies – enable me to determine what fruit would be most desirable for market growers. Though there are many wonderful and unique indigenous and heirloom vegetable varieties, very few will continue to be grown or shared if they do not perform well or taste good.

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