Porky Pumpkins Tip Scales at 1000-Plus Pounds

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October 11, 1996

Web Alert: Porky Pumpkins
Tip Scales at 1000-Plus Pounds

By NANCY STEDMAN & STEVE DITLEA

To the

four-minute mile and the eight-foot high jump, add yet another legendary

performance barrier, shattered just last Saturday: the 1,000-pound pumpkin.

Paula and Nathan Zehr from Lowville,

N.Y., set a new record last weekend with their 1,061 pound

pumpkin.

Credit: Associated Press



For fans of gargantuan gourds, the wonder is that it took so

long. In 1994, when Herman Bax of Lyn, Ontario, grew a prize-winning 990-pound

Atlantic Giant pumpkin, it seemed likely that the 1,000-pound mark would fall

quickly — especially since record-sized fruit of this hybridized plant had

nearly doubled in weight during the previous decade. But then in 1995, Paula

Zehr of upstate New York won top the year’s honors with a mere 963- pounder.

When would improvements in seeds and growing techniques result in the half-ton

triumph?

Befitting such a blend of nature and technology, the news that not

one but two giant pumpkins had tipped the scales above the magic 1,000 level

was spread first via Web sites created and maintained by enthusiastic growers

attracted to this weighty pursuit.

“The fascination is in the experience of watching a plant grow so

fast — 20 to 30 pounds a day,” said Dan Gardner, whose World

Class Giant Pumpkins site is accurately billed as “the Internet starting

point for learning about World Class Giant Pumpkins.” On Saturday evening, from

weigh-off data posted on his site for one of the competitive associations, the

Great Pumpkin Commonwealth Results page, the world learned of

the 1,006-pound pumpkin, as big as a kitchen stove, grown by a 64-year-old

retired gardener, Bill Greer of Picton, Ont.

To fully appreciate the hard work and high stakes involved in the

competitive world of giant pumpkin growing, browsers may want to linger at

Gardner’s site, which the Appleton, Wis., electrical engineer created a year

ago to provide pumpkin information on the Internet. Here he offers a lengthy

news feature from the Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine, titled 1,000

Pounds or Pie, by Michael Vitez; links to The Travels of a

Pumpkin, a brief tale of Herman Bax’s 990-pounder; and to Barry DeJong’s ’94 Diary, the epic struggle to raise a

945-pounder — as well as to Gardner’s own online diary complete with photos of

Dan’s Pumpkin, which weighed in on Saturday at 291.5 pounds.

“A lightweight, it barely escaped being the runt of the show,” Gardner said.

Howard Dill with his 1981 world record

pumpkin. This 493.5 pounder held the world record for 4 years while Howard won

an unprecedented 4 consecutive World Championships.



Shortly after midnight on Sunday, East Coast time, word was

posted on the Atlantic Giant Pumpkins Web site: “Paula and

Nathan Zehr from Lowville, N.Y., entered a pumpkin which weighed 1,061 pounds.”

The new record holder won its thirtysomething growers a $50,000 prize at the

Great Pumpkin Farm, near Buffalo, where it will remain on exhibit until

Halloween. Meanwhile, the 1,006-pound Canadian pumpkin is being shipped to

California for a fall festival celebration. (Mainstream media lagged on this

fast-breaking news; for instance, CNN Interactive’s Web site didn’t post its

story Half ton pumpkin wins contest until late Sunday

afternoon).

The Atlantic Giant Pumpkin site, chock full of information for

devotees of the orange pachyderms,<!??> includes Frequently

Asked Questions on Atlantic Giant Pumpkins and secrets of Atlantic Giant Growing Techniques, detailing the germination,

pollination, fertilization, care and watering (pumpkins are 95% water) needed

for a barrier-shattering behemoth. The site is maintained by Duncan McAlpine of

Seattle, a Boeing engineer whose own Atlantic Giant weighed a mere 208* on

Saturday, but was nevertheless honored with the title of “ugliest pumpkin” in

Washington State.

McAlpine’s pumpkin pages are actually part of a larger gardening

site seeded by his original home page, which was produced to promote the

Mt. Tahoma Rock Garden Society. Now his Web pages are

organized according to the divisions of his home garden, diagrammed on

The Pacific Northwest Climate Garden page. Still, giant

pumpkins are clearly his favorite flora; just look at his page of Atlantic Giant Pumpkins Clipart, with 47 downloadable files of

colorful pumpkin graphics collected from around the Net.

Potential converts to the giant pumpkin way can even

view Giant Pumpkin Trading Cards commemorating champions of

past years, posted by an Ontario grower, Gus Saunders, whose Farmer Gus’ Ottowa-St.Lawrence Pumpkin Growers Home Page includes

his picture, with the caption: “Farmer Gus says ‘I never met a pumpkin I didn’t

like!”

Anyone sharing that sentiment should go directly to Howard Dill’s Giant Pumpkins page where Dill, “The Pumpkin King”

who has been hybridizing Giant Atlantics for the last 16 years, offers his

prize-winning seeds for sale.

The Pumpkin King’s Web site is festooned with a cartoon of a little

boy surrounded by dozens of pie pans, exclaiming: “Oh mom! not pumpkin pie

again!” While many giant pumpkins grown for competition will end up as compost,

growers looking to use the fruit of their labors in something other than pie

can also find alternatives on the Net on a page devoted to 45 Fun

Recipes for Pumpkin.


Related Sites

Following are links to the external Web sites mentioned in this

article. These sites are not part of The New York Times on the Web, and The

Times has no control over their content or availability. When you have finished

visiting any of these sites, you will be able to return to this page by

clicking on your Web browser’s “Back” button or icon until this page

reappears.

Copyright 1996 The New York Times Company


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