Monday, June 22, 2009

Bella Italia

Bella Italia

I discovered a southern Italian squash at the 2009 Philadelphia Flower Show. The show gardens displayed a feeling of majestic Rome with its formal topiary, statues and fountains. Tiered displays and cobblestones transformed the gardens into the local feel of Liguria, Venezia, Toscana, Abruzzo, Umbria, Campania and Calabria. 

At the show, as always, we enjoyed viewing the numerous display gardens and meeting up with a few other gardeners from Dave’s Garden. One of my favorite parts was to visit the vendor area in search of interesting garden related products, plants and seeds. While in line to purchase seeds I met a lovely Italian woman. She had a pack of seeds that I’ve never seen before from Italy called, ‘Zuchetta Serpente di Sicilia’. As soon as I saw the name, I knew we had to try it. 

Folks in southern Italian regions often refer to this veggie as Cucuzzi. My new Italian acquaintance said to me, “Give Cucuzzi room, it’s a very vigorous vine. It climbed up one of our trees!” This Southern Italian squash is actually a gourd. The blooms are white, rather than the yellow blooms seen on squash. The fruit itself should be picked when it is one foot long or shorter, if left on the vine, it can grow to three feet long, hence the name ‘serpente’. Like squash, the buds can be used in GardenCuizine and stuffed or sautéed in olive oil. To grow -- plant in mounds six feet apart with 3-4 seeds per mound. Yields in approximately 70-75 days. For Cucuzzi and more vegetable seeds from Italy visit:

My dream is to someday visit the sunny gardens of Sicily. Our family on my mothers side has southern Italian roots. Foods of Italy have always fascinated me with the various Arab, Greek, Spanish and French cultural influences. My favorite recipes are simple and wholesome, utilizing flavors, blossoms, fruits and nuts such as olive, anise, citrus, jasmine flowers, figs, and almonds.

Edited 12/30/11 to add: Cucuzza squash is quite a vigorous grower! Plant it away from your garden in its own area, or on its own pergola letting the gourds hang down for show. For eating, harvest when only 12-inches - NOT when 4-6 feet! 

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