The Greatest Pumpkin
October 22, 2015 8:55 AM   Subscribe

It all starts with the seed. Top growers know their pumpkins' lineage back generations, and the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth keeps records.
Ron Wallace was the first person to grow a one-ton pumpkin. He's going for 2,500 pounds next.

About 30,000 fruit and vegetable growers compete in organizations like the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth, going for sheer mass. Alaska is a hotbed (so to speak) for certain crops, thanks to the long summer sun.
posted by Etrigan (20 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
And of course, as soon as I hit post, I remember where I saw this other article about Wallace that talks very lightly about how the techniques he and other competitive growers use may be more applicable to large-scale agriculture.
posted by Etrigan at 9:01 AM on October 22, 2015

I do not believe that you can grow a pumpkin bigger than Rhode Island inside Rhode Island. These are smaller pumpkins just held really close. It's an old trick John Brown used to pull all the time.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:08 AM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

He's the Chuck Yeager of pumpkins.
posted by XMLicious at 9:08 AM on October 22, 2015

So many questions about the "increasing crop yields" idea:

-The larger you grow something, the more water/nutrients/care it needs. At what point does that outpace the crop yield benefits?

-Do his giant vegetables actually taste good? Pumpkins don't have a lot of taste anyway, so it's moot, but the CS article mentioned 5-pound tomatoes. What do they taste like?
posted by emjaybee at 9:12 AM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Personally, I prefer my pumpkins to look pleasingly plump with a hearty, orange hue that faintly exudes the warmth of a cozy autumn hearth.
This one looks more like the wan, distended corpse of a long-extinct cetaceous creature washed up on the shore of a lifeless alien sea.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:25 AM on October 22, 2015 [11 favorites]

Do his giant vegetables actually taste good?

I have serious doubts that they do. Almost by definition, if you work to maximize one attribute, you are going to have to make sacrifices on others. Commercial growers already select for size and hardiness (for shipping) over flavor, and the results are pretty clear if you do a taste-test between a grocery store tomato and a homegrown one. I can't imagine that if they turn the size up to 11 that it's going to do any favors to flavor.
posted by tocts at 9:36 AM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

From the article:

One place these pumpkins won't end up: pumpkin pie. They're too big to be tasty.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:49 AM on October 22, 2015

Yes, but how sincere is it?
posted by darksasami at 10:02 AM on October 22, 2015 [5 favorites]

I grew a (relatively) big pumpkin back in Grade 6. It was 121 pounds, good enough for third place at the local fair.

My mom (a nurse) picked up an IV line from some medical supply store and I managed to attach it to a 2 litre pop bottle, giving me a means of delivering a drip of sugary water to a vine close to the most promising pumpkin. I didn't know about burying vines or using fancy soil fungi, but it seemed to work out pretty well.

We had an epic jack-o'-lantern that year.
posted by bismol at 10:07 AM on October 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

Wallace's friend Joe Jutras, of Scituate, is a 2007 pumpkin world record holder. Now, he's going for the trifecta: world records for heaviest pumpkin (check), longest long gourd (check) and heaviest squash (still working on it after a squash that was on track to break the record split).

Cucurbits gone wild!
posted by TedW at 10:31 AM on October 22, 2015

I went to the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin festival many years ago, and saw some monsters up close. I'm not sure the pictures really do them justice.
As I recall, the biggest squash was even bigger than the pumpkins. I'm not sure if that's a separate category now. At that size, they all look like Jabba the Hutt.
The website for this year's festival (which was last week) indicates the world record is 2323 pounds.
This year's winner was only 1969 lbs., down from last year's 2058.
posted by MtDewd at 11:19 AM on October 22, 2015

How easy would it be to use a syringe to inject water/other dense fluid into the pumpkin to covertly increase it's mass?
posted by xmattxfx at 11:19 AM on October 22, 2015

What, no mention of Howard Dill, four time world champion, two-time world record holder, and developer of Dill's Atlantic Giant pumpkin seeds? Or the annual pumpkin regatta where people race in pumpkins across a lake?
posted by GhostintheMachine at 12:53 PM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Bet this guy has great tips for protecting plants from vermin: deer, gophers, fairy godmothers, etc...
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:11 PM on October 22, 2015

This year's winner was only 1969 lbs., down from last year's 2058.

SF Chronicle: Drought takes a toll on the giant pumpkins of Half Moon Bay. This year's winner ("That’s how it goes," GTFO) was from Oregon.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 2:16 PM on October 22, 2015

Ah, the perfect opportunity to break out my famous Papa Bear voice.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:47 PM on October 22, 2015

Several years ago PBS showed "Lords of the Gourd", and it's my second favorite in The Pursuit of Excellence documentary series, after the ferrets.
posted by of strange foe at 10:25 AM on October 23, 2015

> He's the Chuck Yeager of pumpkins.

The pumpkin itself is more along the lines of Alex Rodriguez.
posted by jfuller at 11:14 AM on October 23, 2015

My hypothesis is that the fruit or vegetable has a generally fixed amount of flavor. So, the bigger it is, the less flavor it has. I recently bought a giant peach on a whim. It was cheap and about the size of a softball and largely flavorless. We got grapes from Costco and some of the grapes on the same plant were noticeably smaller than others and the smaller ones all had more flavor. It's not true for everything, but it holds true often.
posted by VTX at 8:50 PM on October 23, 2015

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