How to Grow Musquee de Provence Pumpkins, an Heirloom Vegetable
What are Musquee de Provence Pumpkins?
Pumpkins are native to North America. After the discovery of the New World, many native plants, including pumpkins, were brought back to Europe where they were hybridized to suit their new environment as well as the needs of European farmers.
Musquee de Provence (Cucurbita moschata) was hybridized in southern France where it was often sold by the slice in the marketplaces. It made its way back to North America in 1899 where it is also known as the Fairytale pumpkin.
It is similar to the Long Island Cheese pumpkin. Both are flat like a wheel of cheese. Whereas the Long Island Cheese pumpkin averages 6 to 10 lbs, the Musquee de Provence is much larger, averaging a hefty 20 pounds. The fruit has prominent lobes. When ripe, it is a deep brownish orange. It is an excellent cooking pumpkin with flesh that is a deep orange color.
How to Grow Musquee de Provence Pumpkins From Seed
Musquee de Provence is easy to grow from seed. It is best to direct sow your seeds in your garden rather than starting indoors. Cucurbits do not like to have their roots disturbed which is almost unavoidable when transplanting. If you must start your seeds indoors due to a short growing season, use newspaper pots or other organic pots that can be transplanted directly into your garden without disturbing the roots. These types of pots will break down in the soil allowing the roots to grow into the soil. If you use peat pots or pots made of compressed manure, they will break down in the soil and enrich it.
To prepare your garden to sow your seeds, you need to make “hills”. Cucurbits do best if sown in elevated piles of soil. This allows for good drainage and helps keep the soil and seeds warm. The soil in the hills will warm faster than the soil at ground level. The seeds will germinate when the soil temperature is 60⁰F, but the optimal soil temperature is 70⁰F. Seeds will rot in cold soil, especially if it is wet so avoid planting them too early, especially if you are having a wetter than normal spring.
The hills should be about 12 inches around and at least 6 feet apart. Pumpkin vines are quite large and need lots of space. Plant 5 to 6 seeds in each hill, point down and 1 inch deep. After the seeds germinate, thin to 3 to 4 plants. Thinning should be done by cutting the seedlings with scissors. Pulling them out of the ground will disturb the roots of the remaining seedlings. Cucurbits are very sensitive to having their roots disturbed.
How to Grow Musquee de Provence Pumpkins
After you have transplanted your seedlings that you started indoors or your direct-sown seeds have germinated, the vines will require at least 1 inch of water per week. If the weather doesn’t cooperate and not enough rain falls, you should provide supplemental watering, ideally using drip irrigation which will provide water directly to the roots. If you water using a hose, be sure to water near the roots. Avoid using sprinklers or watering from over the vines. When water falls from a distance like from a sprinkler, it hits the ground with force and bounces back up to the leaves carrying with it soil and disease. Overhead watering is the main cause of powdery mildew which can weaken or kill your plants. Always water close to the roots.
Pumpkins do not like to compete for water and nutrients, so keep your garden well-weeded. Use a hoe or other device to cut the weeds off at ground level rather than pulling them out. Pulling weeds can disturb the roots of your vines and pumpkins do not like to have their roots disturbed.
Adding a thick, 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch will keep the soil moist and prevent weed seeds from germinating. When adding mulch to your pumpkin patch, be sure that tit doesn’t touch the vines. Leave at least an inch between the mulch and the vines to prevent insect infestations.
How to Harvest Musquee de Provence Pumpkins
100 to 110 days after germination, your pumpkins will be ready for harvest. They will be a brownish orange color and the stem attaching them to the vine will begin to turn brown. Musquee de Provence are sensitive to hard frosts. Like all cucurbits, they taste sweeter after a light frost, but they should be harvested immediately afterwards. Too many frosts will damage the pumpkins. Harvest them by cutting the stems with a knife rather than pulling them off the vine. Stems should be cut to 3” to 4”. Do not handle the pumpkin by the stem. If the stem becomes detached from the pumpkin, it will begin to rot.
How to Store Musquee de Provence Pumpkins
If you don’t use your harvested pumpkins right away, you can store them. For best storage, you should “cure” them by gently brushing off all the dirt and leaving them in a warm, sunny spot for 1 to 2 weeks. Don’t allow them to get wet. Cover them if it rains.
Once cured, you can store your pumpkins in a cool, dry place. Basements are not ideal because they are damp and could cause your pumpkins to rot. An old-fashioned root cellar works best, but an unheated enclosed porch is a good alternative. Properly cured, they will store for up to 5 months.
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© 2016 Caren White