(Lagenaria siceraria); Heirloom; Minimum 25 seeds
Technically an edible gourd, Cucuzzi fruits are a staple in Italian kitchens, providing a nutty, rich, firm textured alternative to summer squash. Picked very young (less than an inch in diameter,) it is scrumptious sliced and sautéed, grilled, fried and even pickled. As it lengthens and increases in diameter, it becomes more firm, perfect slow roasted, baked or puréed for soups, sauces and fillings. The larger, harder skinned fruits are yummy halved and stuffed. Foodies know Cucuzzi's leaves and tendrils as tenerumi, featured in pasta preparations and soups.
In addition to its diverse culinary appeal, this robust variety is fun to grow with leaves that are fuzzy soft, white blossoms that attract night pollinators and when left to mature on the vine, elongated 3-4 foot fruits that dry for unique decorations. Cuzuzzi vines are assertive, requiring a strong trellis and management to tame sprawl (or allow to dominate its own space.)
A benefit to me is that Cucuzzi is the only gourd I grow so it is one less variety for me to hand-pollinate for seed purity.
It is easy to turn a mature Cucuzzi into a unique decoration. Leave the gourd on the vine until first frost. Harvest it with at least an inch of stem remaining and store it in a well-ventilated, warm, dry location (if drying multiples, don't allow to touch.) Over time it gets fuzzy - this is okay! Check on it regularly to rotate it and wipe it down gently with a dry cloth. As it fuzzes the skin hardens - the length of time for hardening depends on room conditions. When it has completed hardening, I wipe it once with vinegar to kill the fuzzies and leave it to dry a final time. If soft spots develop, remove the spot for a holed gourd or discard entirely (be sure to harvest the seeds from the hardened parts!) If you plan to harvest gourds, you can influence the shape of the gourd by changing the "pressure" on the growing end - for example fruits that come in contact with the ground begin to bend at the contact point, so you can get creative in bending!