Inside the Gloppy, Schmutzy World of Giant Pumpkin Growers



Island Packet — No one needs a 2,000-pound pumpkin. No one. Such massive pumpkins are absurd and unnatural and freaky-looking, and good news only if you’re part of the powerful international lobby Big Pie.

Regular pumpkins are weird enough looking, and that’s before you decapitate them and use your filthy, guilty hands to scoop out their gloppy insides, which — and I don’t care how old you are — never feels not like you’re removing parts of valuable, delicious brain from the corpse of an evil woodland creature of some kind (unless that’s just me, in which case, stop looking at me like that). I have never liked that part of pumpkin carving, even when I learned that you could achieve the same effect with a spoon and not get that slithery pumpkin schmutz under your fingernails.

I learned this invaluable nugget of advice from my son, who, at the age of 4, is apparently a much more effective engineer than I will ever be in my life. We went to carve his pumpkin last week — which, I should point out, he did entirely by himself, which made us tremendously proud and explains why, if you see his pumpkin, it looks like it’s been designed by a lunatic with a pickaxe. But when it came time to dissect the orange beast, he waddled right into the kitchen, opened the drawer, got a spoon, came back out and looked and his mom and I like, “What, you thought I was gonna do that with my hands? Listen, yes, I like to consume up to six Tootsie Rolls at a time, but I’m not prepared to abandon my basic human nature.”

So, anyway, that was with a 10-lb. pumpkin, or probably a 7-lb. pumpkin now, as it’s been sitting out for about a week and is withering and slumping and attracting bugs and smelling like some combination of bacon, pumpkin and a foot. Just imagine — imagine! I say again — doing this with an unholy beast clocking in at almost a ton.

If you are a Giant Pumpkin Grower, which it is exceedingly likely that you are not, this is your NCAA tournament, Super Bowl, Academy Awards and SXSW all wrapped up into one delightful, bumpy fiesta. Last year’s world champion, for instance, clocked in at 1,600 pounds, or twice the size of Khal Drogo’s head. SIXTEEN HUNDRED POUNDS. Just two decades ago, a pumpkin that weighed 400 pounds was considered an affront to nature; these days, big-shot pumpkin elitists scoff at 1,000-pounders like they’re magna cum laude degrees from Harvard Law School, and if you have ever been in a room of giant pumpkin growers and felt them all scoffing at you at once — well, let me  tell you, friend, that’s not a feeling you forget anytime soon.

To put that in perspective, go to your front porch right now and look at the pumpkin that’s there. Now imagine injecting that pumpkin with enough growth hormone to flatline Hacksaw Jim Duggan and watching it grow to four million times its natural size, sprout legs and rampage through the neighborhood. That’s what this thing looks like.

I’m joking about this, but it appears that there may be a limit to the achievements humans can make in giant pumpkin growing: another 1,600 beast at a weigh-off on the East Coast developed a hole — this, I guess, happens when pumpkins grow too fast — thus becoming not the first athlete to lose something because of an untimely leak. The thing only clocked in at 1,568 pounds. On the plus side, experts said, it looked really sincere.



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About Jeff Vrabel

Writer for GQ, Time, Men's Health, Billboard, the official Bruce Springsteen site, Paste, Nickelodeon and The South Magazine. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

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