Heirloom Vegetables: 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 averages 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 is easy to grow from seed. It is not recommended that the seeds be started 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 and will break down in the soil allowing the roots to grow. Starting seed in these containers means that the roots of your seedlings will not be disturbed when you transplant them into your garden.
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 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.
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 Harvest & Store
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.
If you don’t use your pumpkin right away, you can store it. 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.
You can store your pumpkin in a cool, dry place. Basements are not ideal because they are damp. An old-fashioned root cellar works best, but an unheated enclosed porch is a good alternative.
© 2016 Caren White