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Barattiere cucumbers are a small to medium-sized varietal, averaging 10 to 11 centimeters in diameter, and have a round appearance with a slightly tapered and pointed stem top. The variety has smooth, firm, somewhat bumpy, and taut skin showcasing variegated dark green, bright green, and yellow hues with faint specks and steaks across the surface. Yellow indicates maturity, and the cucumbers are preferably sold for consumption when they are mostly green. Underneath the semi-thin skin, the white to ivory flesh is dense, aqueous, crisp, and watery. As the variety matures, the flesh will develop a pink hue. The central cavity is generally tiny and filled with underdeveloped tan seeds, encased in a light, gelatinous liquid. Barattiere cucumbers have a refreshing, delicate, mild, sweet, and subtly vegetal flavor.
Barattiere cucumbers are available in the summer.
Barattiere cucumbers, botanically classified as Cucumis melo, are an heirloom variety belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family. The Italian cultivar is described as having a texture and flavor reminiscent of a cross between a muskmelon and a cucumber and is a rare, specialty item sold in markets for fresh eating. Barattiere cucumber vines can produce ten fruits each season and are harvested when they are still immature and green, favored for their crisp, juicy flesh and mild, refreshing flavor. Historically, the variety was localized as an ancient summer vegetable of the Apulian region in Southern Italy, but recently it has emerged from obscurity and found a presence in seasonal, summertime markets throughout Europe. Barattiere cucumbers are also called Cetriolo Barattiere, Barattiere di Fasano, and Cumelo through Dutch retailers and are sliced and served as is or incorporated into mild, fresh preparations.
Barattiere cucumbers are a source of potassium to balance fluid levels within the body, iron to develop the protein hemoglobin for oxygen transport through the bloodstream, and calcium to build strong bones and teeth. The fruits also provide vitamin C to strengthen the immune system, manganese to develop connective tissues, boron to support bone health, and contains other nutrients, including copper, phosphorus, and zinc. One of the notable qualities of the variety is its absence of cucurbitacin, a compound commonly found in cucumbers that may cause indigestion or upset stomachs. Barattiere cucumbers are easily digestible and have a high-water content, acting as a natural but gentle diuretic.
Barattiere cucumbers have a mild, refreshing, subtly sweet flavor suited for fresh preparations. It is important to note that the variety is consumed when it is immature, and the flesh should feel firm and crunchy with a green coloring. The cucumbers are traditionally eaten raw and can be sliced, sprinkled with salt, and consumed as a stand-alone snack. Barattiere cucumbers can be chopped into salads, served as a mild side, or halved and filled with cheeses or yogurt as a savory-sweet dish. They can also be tossed with fresh herbs and tomatoes in pasta, served with mashed fava beans, or paired with other vegetables to accompany main meat dishes. Barattiere cucumbers pair well with herbs such as oregano, mint, parsley, and chives, aromatics including onions, shallots, and garlic, cheeses such as cottage, goat, and feta, and meats including poultry, beef, pork, and turkey. Whole, unopened Barattiere cucumbers will keep for 1 to 2 weeks when stored in the refrigerator's crisper drawer.
Apulia in southern Italy is known for its culinary simplicity and focus on fresh ingredients. The region's cuisine was once regarded as "peasant food" or "cuisine of the poor," as most of the ingredients found in dishes were grown in home gardens and were local to the area. Barattiere cucumbers were a traditional peasant food ingredient and were often served as a palate cleanser between meal courses. It was common for Apulian residents to spend several hours at a table sharing food with family and friends, and the succulent cucumbers provided added hydration to refresh the senses before another course was served. One of the unique elements of Barattiere cucumbers is their young nature. When the cucumbers are immature, crisp, and green, they have an underdevelopment seed cavity that is entirely edible. Apulian farmers refer to this seed cavity as "green caviar" and consume it as a seasonal delicacy. The name Barattiere also references the cucumber's Apulian heritage. Barattiere translates from Italian to mean "barter" and is a descriptor highlighting how the cucumber was once grown and exchanged between families throughout the region.
Barattiere cucumbers are native to Italy and have been cultivated for centuries in Apulia, a region in southern Italy along the Adriatic and the Ionian Sea. The cucumbers are found in warm, sunny areas throughout Apulia, especially in Bari, Fasano, Brindisi, and Ostuni. Barattiere cucumbers were once a crop widely grown among peasant families in Italy, but over time, they eventually fell out of favor. Only a few growers continued cultivating the cucumbers, mainly to preserve and protect the region's biodiversity. Recently, Barattiere cucumbers have seen a resurgence in popularity among produce enthusiasts. The cucumbers spread in cultivation to parts of Sicily, Campania, Basilicata, and Central Italy in Tuscany and Lazio. Today Barattiere cucumbers are primarily found in Italy through specialty grocers and markets, but the variety is occasionally exported to grocers in other areas of Europe, including locations in London. The Barattiere cucumbers featured in the photograph above were sourced from Eataly, an Italian market that sells products in partnership with Natoora in London, England.