Ancient vegetables: Tortarello Abruzzese

Ancient vegetables: Tortarello Abruzzese

Production area and history

Region: Abruzzo - Molise
Production area: mainly in the province of Chieti

The tortarello (Cucumis melo var. flexuosus), is an annual herbaceous rustic plant.
The production is concentrated mainly in the province of Chieti, especially in the Vasto area and in the warm Trigno valley, where it is also widespread in the Molise territory. In the vastese and nearby Molise, tortarello almost entirely replaces the cultivation and consumption of cucumber. Locally it is called, feminine,(la) turtarelle in Abruzzo and(la) turtanelle in Molise. In the Province of Teramo it is known locally asmelancola ormelancolo, term with which in other places of Abruzzo the common cucumber is indicated.

Tortarello Abruzzese (photo


The fruit of the Abruzzo tortarello is light green, 45 to 80 cm long. It has a twisted appearance, particularly in the terminal part of the fruit. The peel, not tomentose, has longitudinal grooves. The fruits are collected, still immature, usually when they reach 40-50 cm.

Tortarello Abruzzese (photo

Cultivation technique

Traditionally, sowing in the open field is carried out in rows, at postarelle 80-90 cm away from each other, in which 2-3 seeds are placed at a depth of about 5-6 cm; the rows must instead be about 1 meter apart. When the seedlings have reached the size of about 12-15 cm, thinning must be carried out, leaving the best one, taking into account the fact that in carrying out this operation it is necessary to avoid undermining the remaining seedling.
The cultivation can also be started by transplanting the seedlings with earthen bread, produced on their own in honeycombed containers; with transplanting, the harvesting period is anticipated by 10-15 days compared to direct sowing in the open field.


The harvest of these two vegetables begins approximately 60 days after sowing and is scaled, until September-October depending on the places of cultivation.
It is usually harvested every 2-3 days, gradually choosing well-enlarged but still immature and greenish fruits, before the color turns yellow or orange.
The fruits, particularly appreciated for the pleasant flavor reminiscent of that of melon, are eaten raw in salads, seasoned with oil, salt and vinegar, or only with salt, alone or mixed with other vegetables, such as red onions, peppers and capers; more simply they can be combined with ripe tomatoes, seasoning them only with salt.

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