Cinderella pumpkins, or Rouge Vif D’Etampe (their correct name), are indeed the best pumpkins to grown in your garden. I am very adamant about this for numerous reasons.
Sure, all gardeners have their favorites; favorite cukes, favorite tomatoes, favorite peas, but for me, I change things up every year. I try different cultivars, and generally never plant something twice, unless it was a real superstar in my garden and my kitchen.
I mean my garden produce needs to put on a show and dance for me all season to get a call back for next year.
But pumpkins are different. My first year gardening I planted the Cinderella pumpkins, and they are the only plant that ever got invited back every single year to my garden.
If I could grow a field of them, I would, that is how much I love them.
Why I only grow Princess Pumpkins
Rouge Vif D’Etampe are heirloom French pumpkins that have a striking deep red-orange color and look like a giant wheel of cheese. They were very popular in French markets during the 1880s.
So why is it called a Cinderella pumpkin? It is rumored Disney used the Rouge Vif D’Etampe as the design inspiration for Cinderella’s carriage. It does, after all, look like a carriage fit for Disney princeses.
Call it by its correct name, or common name – it doesn’t matter to me – in the end, I call them all pies.
But if you want to plant them, search for Rouge Vif D’Etampe on your seed packets, or you will be on some wild endless glass slipper chase through the kingdom.
Cinderella pumpkins – all the reasons they belong in your garden
Growing season – harvest – storage
Cinderella pumpkins need a 100 day growing season, which works exceptionally well for me in my short season.
I’m a northern gardener, and I have trouble finding very reliable, hearty cultivars for my area. Varieties I choose have to produce, and they have to produce quickly. With a short season, it’s sometimes hit or miss if I get some crops indoors before the first snow hits.
That first snow for us can be as early as mid-September. Yes, it is as bad as it sounds.
So if you’re like me and you want to carve pumpkins for Halloween, you need a sure-fire hit.
My Cinderella pumpkins are always the first to set, and always the first to ripen. I usually get my pumpkins indoors before September and with proper care and storage can last for months. I gave away two pumpkins in January that were still in perfect condition.
The plants are also disease resistant to powdery mildew, which in my garden is a big deal.
I seem to struggle with powdery mildew with my pumpkins and my squashes.
In a bed where I had a few mounds of different pumpkins, all but the Cinderella pumpkins succumbed to powdery mildew. Nothing I did seemed to matter, and I ended up pulling all the plants leaving behind only the Cinderella which continued to thrive and produce all season.
I stopped planting other pumpkins; it just wasn’t worth the hassle!
Cinderella pumpkin yields
Last year I planted four seeds and wound up with 18 reasonably large Cinderella pumpkins. I had a few small ones, but generally, they were all over 20 pounds.
Each one regardless of size was perfectly round, beautifully flat, and vibrantly colored a deep red-orange.
It’s like that every year; they set quick, set heavy and produce right up to the end of the season and ripen perfectly. These pumpkins are my most reliable crop every single year.
I’ve planted other pumpkins and have never had the production and quality that I get from my Cinderella pumpkins.
Why Cinderella pumpkins belong in your kitchen
Cinderella pumpkins have bright orange creamy flesh that is perfect for baking. Oven roasted they produce a pumpkin puree that is neither watery or bitter. These pumpkins work for sweet and savory and can enhance a pumpkin spice muffin as well as a bowl of creamy pumpkin soup.
Cinderella pumpkins are easy to prepare in the kitchen. Their flatness makes it easy to roast two at once in the oven. They are easy to deseed, and once cooked the flesh pulls easily away from the outer shell. The puree freezes beautifully and stores for up to a year.
From one single large twenty pound pumpkin you can expect to process about 20 cups of puree. That’s a lot of pumpkins!
The roasted pureed Cinderella pumpkin is not as watery as most and does not require a long draining time with a cheesecloth.
The taste is mild, slightly sweet and creamy and puts canned pumpkin to shame. The puree makes the most beautiful pumpkin pie.
You can find an excellent tutorial for making fresh pumpkin puree over at Back to our Roots.
Measure your pumpkin before you freeze it, so you always pull out what you need. I save mine in 1 cup and 2 cup increments, perfect for a pumpkin pound cakes or savory soup.
And if you want a great recipe for that pound cake, I found this one for a cinnamon cream cheese coated pumpkin pound cake.
Oh and don’t forget to roast those seeds too!
Cinderella pumpkins last a long time before processing. These pumpkins are keepers and store exceptionally well over the winter. Kept in a cold area, I was able to save mine for over five months. The recommendation is twelve weeks, but even after five full months, my pumpkins were in excellent condition.
You do not need to bake and freeze all your pumpkin at once. If you have somewhere to store your pumpkins whole, they last for a long time before needing to be processed.
Some folks use a mild bleach solution on their pumpkins; I choose to give my pumpkins a good spray with hydrogen peroxide and let it sit for 5 minutes before I wipe and dry them. Never had one rot on me, and the skin always stays fresh.
How to grow a bumper crop of Cinderella pumpkins
Seed start early
Cinderella pumpkins take about 100 days to harvest. I give myself a bit of leeway by seed starting indoors about three weeks before the last frost of my season.
Plant in 4-6 inch pots, with a good seed starting soil, like Pro-mix.
Good lighting is a must, as is good air flow.
Harden off for a week before planting out, usually two weeks after your last frost date.
If you have a more extended season, wait and plant your seeds directly in the ground.
Prepare your bed in advance
I cover all my beds with clear plastic sheeting as soon as I can clear the snow off. The clear plastic heats the soil in the garden beds up significantly and lets me plant out a bit earlier. The warmer beds also help with germination if you are planting directly with seeds.
Heating the beds also allows any weed seeds that are laying dormant to grow, get cooked and die before I even plant out.
The other important piece in preparing your pumpkin bed is to ensure that you fertilize it well. I like to add my Pro-mix fertilizer to my soil before I over with plastic, and then again when I plant out. Pumpkins grow fast and require nutrients to produce blooms, set, and grow all season long, so make sure they have what they need to thrive.
plant nasturtium seeds with your Cinderella pumpkins
I’m a big fan of growing flowers in my garden. In my small 600 square foot potager, I have as many flowers as I do vegetables. They attract beneficial insects, like ladybugs, lacewings, and bees, and add a great deal of beauty and charm.
When I pull my pumpkins at the end of the season, my nasturtiums are still going to strong. You can see them in the photo above how they were still healthy and vibrant at the very end of the season when the pumpkins vines were drying out.
But there is another reason I plant flowers all over my garden. I do find a benefit to planting certain flowers with certain vegetables to deter the harmful insects and to help improve the growing conditions.
I’ve read all kinds of conflicting information in this regard, but I know one thing for sure – I plant nasturtiums in my garden and I have never seen a squash bug on my pumpkins or squash. (knock on wood)
If you don’t believe me, plant them anyway, nasturtiums look lovely trailing along with the pumpkin vines.
Check out our full post on companion planting with pumpkins, we have everything that works and doesn’t work in one complete list.
Space requirements and what I do in my garden
You do not need a lot of space to grow cinderella pumpkins. The vines trail, but I don’t find they go crazy, and they are quite manageable. The vines get coaxed down our brick paths or out on to the lawn, and they never get in my way.
I have a 600 square foot inground raised bed garden. Our pumpkin patch is a 6×6 plot at the very back. I let the vines trail into the yard, over the grass, under the pine trees.
This year I planted eight vines. Last year, in that bed, I planted four vines with a bed of corn. No issues. I plant as tight as I can to maximize my space. I’ve yet to have yield issues with such close planting, but I water well all season and fertilize every single week.
When I was planting other pumpkins, I planted less to try to avoid crowding which contributes to powdery mildew. Since the Cinderella pumpkins are so resistant to powdery mildew, I pack them in. Even though I planted eight vines in a bed, they did not overlap as I let them wander and trail outside of the bed on the lawn and brick paths.
So long as you have room to let them wander, planting only takes a few square feet of your garden.
Hand pollinating pumpkins
No bees? Not enough pollinators? Sometimes this can be an issue, and you get lots of blooms, lots of starts, but your baby pumpkins fall off the vine. When pumpkins drop, it is usually due to lack of fertilization.
I have lots of bees in my garden, I created a buffet for them so they would come and hang around, but I still give my pumpkins every chance they have.
When a flower opens, I grab a stamen from another flower and manually pollinate with it. You need to go gentle and get as much of the pollen in there as you can. It is not always 100% successful, but it is another way to ensure a large crop of pumpkins come fall.
If you find your first set of baby pumpkins fall off the vine, give hand pollinating a try.
Water and more water
Water, water, and then more water. Pumpkins need watering. Not a sprinkle from a hose, they need a good deep soaking about every three days. I sometimes do it every two days if it is sweltering.
I set out soaker drip hoses and let them go for an hour at a time unless we have a good rain.
Pumpkin roots go deep as they search for water, the more you can give them, the healthier the plants are going to be.
Don’t forget weekly fertilizer
As I said earlier, pumpkins are hungry little beasts. They do need the weekly boost from fertilizer or compost.
I used a good all round organic fertilizer like Pro-mix Organic granular. I sprinkle it around the base of the plant, careful to not get it on the stem, and water it in with the hose.
A quick treat like this once a week and your garden bed will reward you with a healthy, beautiful crop of pumpkins.
Keep them off the wet ground to avoid blemishes
I put pieces of wood and upside down plates under the pumpkins for them to rest on. This helps keep them dry and off the ground.
Grass also surrounds my garden and the paths are brick, so I do not want to leave my Cinderella pumpkins to rest on either surface as they will create blemishes. The bricks will leave indents on the rind, and if you leave your pumpkins to grow in the grass, the bottoms will turn very yellow. You also risk the bases rotting on you if they are always sitting in a moist environment.
The pieces of wood under the pumpkins also allow the rain and wet to roll off the pumpkin and onto the ground under the wood instead of under the pumpkin.
Watch em grow!
Cinderella pumpkins grow quick. They are fun to watch in the garden due to the rapid growth spurts that they go through. It’s also fun to watch the turn from bright yellow to brilliant orange and then take their final transition to the deep red-orange they turn at the end of the season.
Then, of course, their inevitable transition into pies…..or jack o’lanterns.
Oh, and if you like garden-to-table type recipes you might enjoy this delicious gooey, rhubarb jam recipe that requires no sugar! Or check out my favorite pickle recipe that I salvaged from a 100 year old homesteading manual.
Or if you want a smokey kick to your pumpkin spice soup, check out this method for making your own smoked salt. The smoked salt is a perfect addition to any savory pumpkin recipe!