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Italy: Early White Scallop courgettes

"An unusual courgette that is appealing and nice to eat thanks to its delicate flavour with an artichoke aftertaste. We are talking about the Early White Scallop, practically unknown in Italy as it disappeared from the market years ago."

"The name Scallop derives from its shape, reminiscent of a flower or flying saucer."

Sara Alonzi, thanks to her passion for ancient cultivars and traditional seeds, managed to make it popular once again under the Faieta - Impronte di Gusto brand.

"Sometimes it is displayed as an ornamental pumpkin by those who ignore the fact that it is an edible courgette. It does belong to the cucurbit family, vegetables classified for summer or autumn cultivation. Its full name is the Cocurbita Pepo Early White Scallop; it is resistant to cold temperatures and ripens in summer. It is part of the courgette family also thanks to its flesh and thin peel."

"This unusual-looking vegetable has a very ancient origin: some seeds have been found in caves in Ecuador and seem to date back to 12,000 years ago. Pre-Columbian populations used it for hundreds of years before it was imported to Europe in 1591. Together with corn and beans, Early White Scallop courgettes used to be defined as the "Three Sisters" as they were in symbiosis on both a nutritional and ecological level. Corn supported beans, which used to grow on their stalks helping them take root. In addition, they enriched the soil with nitrogen, favouring the growth of courgettes, which provided shade thus keeping the soil humid and free from weeds. In addition, the three foods provided a balanced combination of carbohydrates, protein, fats and vitamins."

"I started growing these courgettes in 2012 after researching unusual vegetables such as purple carrots, Mela Piana, Gelata apples, Coscia di Monaca plums, Regina Claudia plums and strawberry corn. I mainly find these rarities at fairs such as 'Gli antichi frutti d'Italia si incontrano a Pennabilli' in Romagna. It was rather hard to collect information on this courgette variety, but I'm proud of being the only one to grow it in Italy. I produce both the yellow and white types, although I tend to focus on the latter due to its unique artichoke aftertaste."

Currently, Early White Scallopp is among the 5 varieties cultivated in the Smithsonian Institutions' Giardino della Vittoria. It is still one of the best varieties thanks to its unusual appealing shape, unique flavour and consistent flesh. 

Not to mention nutritional value: 2g of fibre for 100g of product with only 16 calories, a very low carbohydrate content (3.3g for a 100g portion - half those in 100g of potatoes).

"We are the only ones growing it in Italy. It is a niche production not only because it is hard to find, but also due to its unique flavour, obtained thanks to the fertile ground that is only watered when needed. This also means shelf-life is longer. We try to enhance the artichoke aftertaste during processing by using a bit of vinegar."

Sowing period

"Sowing is generally carried out in April. Sometimes we even sow in March, depending on the weather, although plants might still have to deal with frost or cold fronts. We sow enough to have good quantities to transplant in May when soil temperatures exceed 7°C. We sow 3 seeds per hole to be sure of germination and then remove excess plants. After transplants, we sow once again in open-fields to guarantee staggered production until we reach around 1000 plants."

Crop cycle 

Plants have a cycle of 70 days and harvesting operations are carried out for a couple of months except in periods of particular drought. Just like for the other crops, the company avoids irrigating unless we want to obtain a stronger flavour and avoid the onset of diseases.

The weight of the courgettes can exceed 600 grams. Harvesting is carried out every other day to prevent the fruit from getting too big and thus losing its flavour.

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