Posted on Leave a comment

The Facussa

What is a Facussa?

The Facussa is a light slender tortarello-type snake melon exhibiting bands of dark splotching that still grown in and around the town of Carloforte on the Island of San Pietro in Sardinia, Italy. This Cucumis melo variety flexuous was brought from Tunisia by indigenous sailors. The heat-loving vines that produce a continuous harvest of long beautiful fruit that are consumed like cucumbers.

How did the Facussa get to Sardinia?

Sometime after 1500, after Italian sailors had colonized the islands around Sardinia, they brought over a group of Tunisians from Africa. Along with other things, these Tunisians brought with them seeds of a long somewhat striped cucumber that they called “Faguss” or “Faquss”, which in Arabic roughly translates to “cucumber”.

While the cucumber was favored by the inhabitants of its new home, the Tunisians were unfortunately not. Over time there was conflict between the Sardinians and the Tunisians, which resulted in the latter being sent back to their African homeland. Unlike the Tunisian inhabitants, what was not sent back was their cucumber. Now in the hands of the Italians, the name of this snake melon was Italianized to “Facussa”. The main town on San Pietro Island, Carloforte, offers this variety in its markets from June through late August.

How do I grow the Facussa?

After sourcing high quality seed and preparing the beds, prepare the seed for planting by pre-sprouting. Germinating the 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.

As melons, the Facussa prefers full sun and plenty of above-ground heat and enjoy soils rich soils that drain well. When preparing the garden beds, keep in mind that the Fucussa vines are sensitive to overly wet roots, so should be grown in raised areas or hills in areas where the climate is cool and summer precipitation is abundant. While in dry hot climates, this cucumber-melon can be grown on level ground or in slightly lowered gardens.

The Facussa produces sprawling vines that require some dedicated space. The length of the fruit ranges from merely 6 inches (15cm) to several feet (over 1 meter) and each vine can easily cover 6 square feet (about 2 meters). Vines with smaller fruit will set cucumbers earlier while vines with longer fruit tend to set fruit later. The fruit of the Facussa is at prime fresh eating quality when 1.5 – 2 inches (4 – 5cm) in diameter at the widest (not longest) point. Similar to harvesting zucchini or a summer squash, pick early and often for a reliably high-quality crop of appealing cucumbers.

As the summer heat sets in, these heat-loving vines will produce fruit at an accelerated rate. Shade cloth is both unnecessary and unneeded. Though the longer vines can last longer into the season, in areas with a long warm season, planting every 4-6 weeks will ensure consistent harvests of fresh high-quality fruit.

How do I save seed from my Facussa?

For seed saving, ensure that the Facussa is grown far from any other muskmelon, Armenian cucumber or any other type of Cucumis melo – regardless of the type. Allow the best fruit to ripen and grow large on the vine. Pick when the fruit changes color, begins to smell sweet, slips from the vine, begins to decay or a combination of any one of these factors. Once harvested, store fruit in a cool dry climate until harvesting seeds.

To harvest seeds, cut the fruit length-wise over a colander and scoop seeds out so they drop into the colander. Remove large pieces of inner membrane pulp from the seeds and knead any remaining seed/pulp to loosen the pulp. Rinse and repeat. If any gel membrane remains on the seeds, squeeze out as much liquid from the pulp mixture and set it aside in a jar to ferment for 12-24 hours, then empty into a colander and repeat kneading the pulp and rinsing out the seed. If needed, water winnow. When water winnowing, not all viable seed will always sink to the bottom of the container. Depending on the harvest, a large portion of the healthy viable seed will float near the top of the water. When seed is clean and rinsed, set it in a cool dry place. Once completely dry, dry winnow the seed to remove any light seed. Test seed germination, Label the container with the variety name and date, and store the processed seed in a cool dry place.

Source Information

For More Information about the Facussa, see:

Facussa Wikipedia Page (The picture was provided courtesy of Cucumber Shop)

Gordon Ramsay’s recipe for a Tunisian caponata, with the Facussa as a main ingredient:

History of the Facussa in Carloforte:

Scientific Gardener Blog Posts:

The Facussa

The Facussa in the Chicken Garden

YouTube videos about the Facussa:

The Facussa

The Facussa, Part 1,

The Facussa, Part 2

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *