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The Carosello Cucumber

So What exactly is a Carosello Cucumber?

Long before the regular Indian cucumber (Cucumis sativus) had swept through Europe, many varieties of immature fruit of muskmelon (Cucumis melo) thrived. After making their way up from Africa, these melon-cucumbers became the default cucumber for both the common people and the rulers. But perhaps because changes in politics or because of the practical demands of countries that prefer to utilize cucumbers for their storage qualities, Cucumis melo fell out of favor in almost all of the continent as the more cool-tolerant Cucumis sativus was introduced. While the majority of Europe had largely forgotten C. melo cucumbers, immature cucumbers continued to thrive in southern Italy. Small pockets of small-scale farmers continued to grow out these immature cucumber-melons for their families and to sell at market. In the Apulia region of Italy, this immature melon (Cucumis melo var. chate or adzhur) that is picked immature as a cucumber is known as a carosello. A carosello cucumber is a muskmelon that is picked early like a zucchini, yet consumed like a gourmet cucumber. With a fine crisp-yet-tender texture, rich flavor and exceptional quality, many carosello cucumbers are truly in a class of their own.

Carosello varieties – from the Biodiversity of the Horticultrual Species in Pugliga (BiodiverSO) website at
Image from the website For the Biodiversity of the Horticultrual Species in Pugliga (BiodiverSO) at

Carosello cucumbers come in many shapes from longer to cylindrical to oval to round. They range in color from nearly white to slightly mottled, to slightly dark to fully dark green. Carosello can also exhibit different patterns such as striped, mottled or solid coloring. Many have a unique texture to the flesh and a taste that was selected by the individual farmers where they originated. Each variety has its own unique qualities that make it worth enjoying.

Various caroselli, courtesy of carosellopugliese.blogspot

Where did the Carosello cucumber get its name?

The name “Carosello” for these cucumbers came by Italian seed companies trying to label the seeds with a word that would be familiar with consumers. A friend of mine, Giuseppe Monteleone, who has a family history in the region where these cucumber-melons come from further explains: “In Italian the word “carosello” means the same as the English word “carousel” [meaning the amusement ride for children in which children ride around on a circle while listening to music from an organ]. In the case of the carosello cucumber, the most accepted explanation is that it comes from a local dialect word: “carusieddo” because the first place in Puglia in ancient times when “carusieddo” was first cultivated is Carosino, a small village close to Taranto. When seed companies decided to market “carusieddo”, they couldn’t write on seed packets a vernacular word, so they chose the closest Italian word to “carusieddo” as a sound: carosello, which doesn’t have anything to do with “carousel” in this case.”

Various caroselli, courtesy of carosellopugliese.blogspot

How do you grow a Carosello Cucumber?

Begin by finding high quality seed and preparing the beds. As carosello cucumbers are fundamentally melons (Cucumis melo variety chate) they tend to grow like other vines in the muskmelon family. Melons thrive in the heat and enjoy soils rich soils that drain well. They can be sensitive to wet roots and should be grown in raised areas or hills in areas where there is abundant summer rainfall.

Growing Striped Carosello Leccese (Meloncella Fasciata) cucumbers.

Germinating seed prior to planting can often save time, but be careful when handling seedlings as melons and cucumber have very delicate roots that are easily damaged and root shock will stunt plant growth. Plant seeds or seedlings in the soil when there is no longer any danger of frost. Vines prefer hot days and warm nights. While most carosello varieties produce their first crop of cucumbers when the vines are just over 12 inches in diameter, the roots will require more space as the vines grow.

Various caroselli, courtesy of carosellopugliese.blogspot

Carosello grow like a zucchini, with the initial cluster of fruit in the crown of the vine and later flushes of fruit setting further on. Similar to zucchini, carosello cucumbers grow quickly and should be harvested often. Any Pick fruit when between 1-2 inches in diameter as the quality is often best when about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Round varieties are often best when picked at the size of a peach (3-5 inches in diameter) fuzz on the fruit can either be eaten or can be easily brushed off dry or under a little running water. The skin of most varieties is thin and tender, while the flesh can range from tender, yet crisp to very firm. The initial flavor and texture is similar to a Lebanese or English cucumber, while the aftertaste is often slightly sweet. Carosello cucumbers are often easier to digest than regular cucumbers and, unlike regular cucumbers, the fruit does not exhibit bitterness when the plant is stressed.

How do you save seed from Carosello Cucumbers?

Saving seed of carosello cucumber is very similar to saving seeds of regular Muskmelon because they are Cucumis melo and will easily cross with any other muskmelon, such as cantaloupe or honeydew – and many of the same rules apply. One way to recognize fruit that is beginning to produce seed is that the fruit will first grow very large, then stop growing – even when the plant continues to thrive. To determine seed ripeness, look for fruit that slips from the vine, has changed color, begins to smell very sweet or has become very soft. Once the fruit begins to decay, seed can be removed, rinsed and dried for growing the next generation. Without intentional selection, open-pollinated vegetable varieties often experience what is called “drift”. This means that without saving seed from fruit and plants that exhibit characteristic traits of the specific cultivar, the variety can noticeably change over the course of just a few generations.

Saving Seeds of a Carosello Cucumber (Cucumis sativus var. chate)

Picture Sources:

BiodiverSO For the Biodiversity of the Horticultrual Species in Pugliga at

Carosello Pugliese Blog (Carosello Pugliese and other vegetables grown on the balcony) at:

16 thoughts on “The Carosello Cucumber

  1. You have opened my eyes to the world of cucumbers! I have learned something today that I wasn’t aware about. Thanks.

    1. You’re welcome Malcolm. Hopefully you get to try some carosello cucumbers sometime.

  2. Thank you for sharing your knowledge!

    1. You are very welcome, Kathy. Thank you for your comment. I am often so busy with life and my gardening blog, that I cannot update it as often as I would like.

  3. Can carosello cucumbers be processed into anything?

    1. The ones with more dense flesh, like the Mezzo Lungos, are quite firm and can be processed into pickles like the Turkish Tursuluk Kelek. Most can be used for fresh eating, making sushi or making into refrigerator pickles.

  4. I’m in Colorado near Denver, so have the heat, However, no open beds. Can any be grown in pots at 6000 ft, with the commensurately short growing season?

    1. They can. Try the Light Leccese or Tondo Barese, but protect the sides of the pot from getting too hot. These varieties love the heat, but the roots suffer when they get too warm.

  5. I’m growing two varieties of Carosello for the first time this year. Do they need something to climb on like the Armenian? I’m very excited to try these and the striped Armenian this year!

    1. That’s a really good question, Melissa. Generally speaking, most carosello varieties do not require trellising until after they have produced their first crop. Those labeled “Leccese”, the Tondo Barese and a few others will produce their first crop when only 2 feet in diameter. After that, you will want to trellis them if you are tight on space. Personally, I place thick gauge 5 foot metal tomato cages over my plants when they are about 1′ in diameter. I then go out once or twice a week and train the vines up the center of the cage. Over time, the vines spill out the top of the cage and cascade down the sides. The plants usually don’t take up much more room than that by the end of the season.

  6. I just picked a few from my garden. We call them “Grandpa’s cukes,” because having been born and raised near Bari, they were his favorite. We are taking them to a family reunion this weekend. No one has tasted them since the early 1970s, when my grandfather became too ill to garden.

    1. Hello there Lorenzo. Thank you so much for sharing. I love it when gardeners are able to connect with those they loved through carosello and other cucumber varieties. I hope they taste good and that you are able to enjoy them along with the memories of your grandfather.

  7. These sound so interesting. Do you think I could grow them in northern England? I have a greenhouse too, but I’m guessing they would prefer outdoors?

    1. Hey there Tanja,
      I apologize for taking a while to get back to you. These can grow in Northern England, but they grow faster when exposed to intense sun and definitely do better when the air temperature is above 25 degrees. You would grow these the same as you would with other muskmelons. Most likely, they would do better in the greenhouse.

  8. Are the Carocello leccese a good choice to use for crispy dill pickles?

    1. I had a friend make the Carosello Leccese Striped into refrigerator pickles and said that they were amazing. I haven’t tried them canned in brine for long-term storage. The Mezzo Lungo (half long) Barese and Polignano have a more firm texture for pickling while the dark, light and striped carosello are ideal for fresh-eating.

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