The countryside of Paceco, in the province of Trapani, is full of yellow melons since June.
Early and very productive, at the beginning of the season they compete with Mantuan melons and those from the Sibari plain, but at the end of July, the price collapses because of the excess of supply. At that point it is no longer convenient to pick them and they are left in the field to feed flocks of sheep and goats. A common sight in August in these areas for some years now.
The yellow hybrids that have replaced the autochthonous ones, arrived in these lands at the beginning of the nineties: the first was Madras, still cultivated together with Campero and Helios, which is very popular. The old Cartucciaru of Paceco – an ancient melon with an elongated shape, with the extremity slightly curved, smooth and yellow skin, white and juicy pulp – little by little disappeared from the fields. Yet it was excellent.
The reasons for the abandonment are due to the fact it takes a month more than Helios to ripen: 70-80 days as opposed to 100 days for traditional varieties. Moreover, traditional varieties are less productive, the advantage is they do not require irrigation or fertilization. They are not pushed with nitrogenous fertilizers in order to grow as fast as hybrids.
Cartucciaru is sown in April – in the greenhouse because outdoors the bees would pollinate and it is harvested from June until August.
It belongs, like the Purceddu d’Alcamo (which is however green), the Yellow Tondo of Fulgatore and the White Tondo, to the so called “winter melons” which, hung in ventilated and cool places, become sweeter as time goes by and can be kept for a couple of months, some of them until Christmas.
They are all excellent fruits for the table, but they are also used for slush and for ice cream.
Thanks to the recovery work of the technicians of the decentralized offices of the Sicilian Region in Dattilo, in the province of Trapani, and of four farmers willing to try again the cultivation of the ancient seed of cartucciaru, this melon has been found and put back in the field. Today about 18 hectares are cultivated in dry land.
The problem is to make this production rightly remunerative because it is not sustainable a market that pays only 40 cents per kilogram. In fact, yellow melons are harvested until they are paid at least 35 cents. Below this threshold, it costs more to harvest them and then they are fed to the flocks.
The Presidium will create an association that will practice sustainable cultivation. Presiding over the cartucciaru – like the purceddu d’Alcamo – means safeguarding one of the most authentic agricultural traditions of Trapani.
Gaspare Fazio, Fulgatore (Tp), Via Rizzo 264, Tel. +39 320 6558313, firstname.lastname@example.org
Salvatore Fazio, Fulgatore (Tp), Via Rizzo 40, Tel. +39 389 141808
Francesca Simonte, Dattilo (Tp), Via I° Maggio 27, Tel. +39329 8367976, email@example.com