The Purceddu d’Alcamo has a green, ribbed and wrinkled skin and an oval shape. It is called “purceddu” because its shape resembles a piglet (purceddu in dialect).
It is a rustic variety, which keeps for a long time and should be grown strictly in dry conditions.
The white pulp is juicy and becomes better and sweeter with the passing of time thanks to the progressive concentration of the sugars contained in the pulp.
The purceddu melon is an excellent table fruit and it is one of the ingredients of ice cream and of the traditional Sicilian granitas.
Excellent up to Christmas and beyond – in the past they were kept until February – with the passing of time they become even better: traditionally, after harvesting, they were put on the terraces of houses or hung on balconies.
Melons are one of the most important and ancient products of Trapani’s agriculture. Sowed in May, they are harvested, when they are not yet perfectly ripe (in dialect it is called gresti) starting from August and their most important characteristic is precisely their preservability.
After harvesting, they are stored in cool and ventilated warehouses, stacked in heaps, inside fences called zamme. Every fifteen days they must be turned with great care, without shaking them or causing shocks. This practice prevents the formation of rot.
Purceddu (Cucumis melo var. inodorus) belongs to a family of old varieties – such as cartucciaru of Paceco, or tondo bianco of Fulgatore – called in fact winter melons, varieties which unfortunately risk to disappear.
In 1997, in western Sicily, the “Winter Melon” occupied an area of about 6000 hectares, of which 1500 with green skin. Recent investigations carried out by the Operational Section 85 of the Regional Department of Agriculture have revealed a decrease of 300 hectares of surface and in the last years the trend continues to be negative and the competition of foreign melons is getting stronger and stronger.
The melons cultivated in the countryside of Alcamo and of the surrounding municipalities have always been bought by big wholesalers from Campania who sell them on the markets of Naples: they are very sought-after melons and often those purchased in Sicily are then passed off as melons from Campania.
But the income for Sicilian growers is minimal and this cultivation is becoming less and less profitable: for this reason, some farmers have joined together in a Presidium to try to market the melons independently.
The producers have founded an association and found a place to ripen the melons. The established technique was to place the melons on the floor, but the Presidium growers have improved it: they have wrapped the melons in nets and hung them one by one on wooden structures, as in the case of cured meats. In this way it is no longer necessary to turn them over and it is easy to separate them according to size.
Giuseppe Pirrone, Alcamo (Tp), Via Guerrazzi 13, Tel. +39 339 4109978
Giuseppe Pirrone, Alcamo (Tp), Via Tenente Caravaglios 67, Tel. +39 338 2238878