Monday, March 7, 2011

Italian Squash and Lebanese Cucumbers

The snow is melting (slowly, but surely), the crocuses are pushing their way through the earth.. spring is finally in the air! Today, before the rains come, I want to fling open the cold frame covers, harvest anything left for supper tonight (I'll leave the herbs though so I can keep grazing from them) and dig in a few inches of dark compost. Then, I can get serious about seeding. I'm still waiting for one more order, which should be here today/tomorrow, but my seed box is overflowing onto the dining room table and I need to get planting.

This photo shows the mache still left in one of the garden beds.. Each summer, I let a few mache plants go to seed. Then, once the seed is ready to spread, I uproot the plant and shake it over all the garden beds. Each plant produces thousands of seeds!! Most of the beds are then randomly scattered with seed and we can harvest all winter if we can reach the plants through the snow - a row cover helps to lift off the snow if it's not too deep. I tossed a coin on the bed too so you can see the size of the plants. We just slice them off at soil level, leaving the rosettes whole. So yummy when tossed with lemon juice, olive oil and a sprinkle of salt.

I also managed to get my hands on (squeal!) some genuine straight-from-the-mountain Lebanese metki (also known as painted serpent cucumbers) and melokhiya (an Egyptian green used to make a chicken stew type dish that is then poured over rice and topped with onions and vinegar - my mother in law made it yesterday for lunch). So exciting!! I've been looking for the metki for years. I've tried packets of seed from a handful of suppliers, but they're never the right variety, so I am thrilled to finally have the exact type I've been searching for.

I also have a few new squashes to try this summer (thanks to for the photo use). Trombetta di Albenga is an heirloom Italian summer squash with long, curved fruits with a rounded blossom end. They can grow quite lengthy, but are best picked when about a foot long. The firm flesh doesn't get soggy like other zucchini and it has an unusual nutty flavour that hints of artichoke.. my plan it to grow them up one of our A-frame trellises. We have 2 big ones now (8-feet long), but I think I'll need a third this year.

The other squash I'm excited about is Costata Romanesca (say it out loud - doesn't it sound soooo Italian!? FYI - It's available locally at, which is considered one of the best tasting zuchinni - period. The striped fruits are deep and light green and produced in abundance on vigorous plants. Flavour is also nutty and the large blossoms are exceptional when stuffed and sauteed.. mmm.. can't wait!

I hope spring if finding you as well..

Happy Gardening!


  1. And so Niki,I did a search about those painted serpent cuckes and found a really neat seed house in Quebec that has those seeds and some other really neat stuff at nice prices.(see the tomato!) Not sure if I can post links.......

  2. Thanks Pete. I haven't tried that seed company, but did try others and they were never the 'right' cuke. Always grew thicker and a bit different than the one I wanted (even if the photo seemed correct!).. I'm not too familiar with that company though, so I think I'll take a few moments and poke around what else they offer!! :)

  3. I ran across some Trombetta di Albenga at the farmer's market on Saturday and decided to use it in a vegetable lasagna instead of my usual yellow squash. I actually loved it more! The texture held up and it had less moisture, making the lasagna less runny!

  4. Hi Katie - thanks for sharing that.. mmmmm.. wish we'd find these squash here at our farmer's market.. I've only harvested a handful from my plants - thanks to the hungry deer. They also love these squash - can I blame them for having gourmet taste??! :)


Please feel free to leave comments. I welcome your tips, questions, thoughts and ideas (and suggestions for new veggies to grow!)