STEWART KNOWITALL: How big can pumpkins grow?

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Gavin asks: " How big can pumpkins grow?"

ANSWER: The simple answer is; really big, provided you think that a pumpkin weighing in at over one ton is really big.

We all are used to seeing several kinds of pumpkins at the produce stands, farms, and stores — pie pumpkins and jack-o-lantern (or decorating) pumpkins. A pie pumpkin might weigh around 5 pounds and a jack-o-lantern pumpkin anywhere from 10 pounds up to 50 pounds. Giant pumpkins are not good for pies or for yummy roasted seeds, but you can carve them with a good-sized saw. A chain saw works well. Really. They are simply humongous (really, really big)!

I mentioned that a pumpkin can weigh more than one ton. Everyone that I know considers a ton to be a very, very heavy weight. Well, a ton is 2,000 pounds, which is about what two regular-sized horses, four snowmobiles, or five dolphins weigh. In fact, the world-record pumpkin weighs 2,032 pounds, and Mr. Tim Mathison grew it in California. He proved it at the giant-pumpkin weigh off in Morgan Hill, Calif. on Oct. 12, 2013. A weigh-off is a contest where all the giant pumpkin growers in a particular area get together on a Saturday in the fall and compete to determine who grew the biggest giant pumpkin. Ken Sweet grew the record pumpkin in Michigan, and he proved it at a weigh-off in Dundee in 2010. His pumpkin weighed 1,725 pounds.

There are giant pumpkin weigh-offs all over the U.S. and in many countries, which use very precise rules about what pumpkins qualify for the weigh-off, how they are weighed, and who does the weighing. A grower in Switzerland grew a pumpkin that was even bigger than Mr. Mathison’s, almost 2,400 pounds, but it was disqualified at the Switzerland weigh-off because it had a hole in it, which is not allowed.

I don’t believe that Mr. Mathsion will hold the world record for very long. Back in the year 2000 the world record was just a little over 1,000 pounds, and almost every year since, the world record has been broken. The 2014 weigh-offs are happening right now, and I am anxious to see the results. Some of the champion growers I know believe that in the next few years likely we will see a world record giant pumpkin topping 3,000 pounds. That’s the weight of a small car!

It is difficult to grow giant pumpkins; not many 1,000 pound pumpkins have been grown let alone a giant 2,000 pounder. You must use special giant pumpkin seeds and spend a lot of time babying them, which is surprising when you consider how massive the giant pumpkin plants and pumpkins are. My friends and I are getting close to growing a 1,000 pounder and are hoping we break that barrier in the next year or two. I can’t wait.

If you would like to learn more about giant pumpkins, go to bigpumpkins.com. That is where I keep track of who is growing the biggest pumpkins, and is what I used to find out about the current world record. You can pick up some growing tips there, too.

Hon. Scott Hill-Kennedy Giant pumpkin enthusiast and grower

Scott Hill-Kennedy is a judge for the 49th Circuit Court, 77th District Court and Mecosta/Osceola County Probate Court in Michigan