The use of pumpkins in Halloween and fall décor skyrocketed during the second half of the 20th century as consumers placed greater demands on the market for bold, eccentric pumpkins. It was during this time that big pumpkins came to be known for their stunning, miraculous beauty and their usefulness in carving.
Why Big Pumpkins Exist
As a direct result of competitive consumerism, big pumpkins now find themselves among countless other crops that have been purposefully altered through selective breeding and domestication.
The 'Atlantic Giant' - patented in the 1960's by Howard Dill of Windsor, in Nova Scotia - is the variety that most true giant pumpkins stem from. In fact, no other type of pumpkin has been awarded the world champion record since 1979. With careful, intensive cultivation methods, this variety has been known to grow larger than 1,000 pounds (450 kg).
The 'Prizewinner' is also a hybrid variety of big pumpkins. They are bright red or orange, and may produce fruits as large as 300 pounds (136 kg) with intense management. Though not the biggest pumpkin variety out there, the 'Prizewinner' is a safer, reliable plant for harvesting at home.
Characteristics of Big Pumpkins
Many big pumpkins average about 300 - 500 pounds (136 - 227 kg), with some growing to be over 2,000 pounds (900 kg). They have deep ridges and range in color from bright orange to dull orange to grayish. Their hard, durable rinds can be as thick as one foot (30 cm) wide.
Some big pumpkins also tend to be knobby and lopsided, producing white, dime-sized seeds and flesh that is dry, stringy, and bitter.
What to Do with Big Pumpkins
Jack-o'-lantern carving, competitions in pumpkin festivals , and pumpkin decoration are among the most common uses for big pumpkins. Large pumpkins can be seen on display at many local pumpkin patches and other fall events.
Because their fruits are so bitter and unpalatable, most big pumpkins are purely ornamental. However, some brave souls have attempted to make pumpkin pie from them using an abundant supply of spices and sugar for flavor.
Where to Find the Biggest Pumpkins
Because of their cumbersome size, big pumpkins are not readily available for purchase in most grocery stores or farmers' markets, yet they can still be purchased at larger harvest festivals, or through direct contact with some local farmers for about one dollar per pound, or $2.20 USD per kilogram.
The Biggest Pumpkin in History
The biggest pumpkin in the world was grown by Swiss accountant Beni Meier, in 2014. Weighing in at a jaw-dropping 2,323 pounds (1,054 kg), Meier's pumpkin was authenticated by the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth in Ludwigsburg, Germany.
How to Grow a Big Pumpkin
The earliest pumpkins have the greatest chance of becoming the biggest, but they require constant attention. It is necessary to follow some steps:
- Purchase big pumpkin seeds from a reputable vendor.
- Use compost, fertilizer, or manure and plant them in nutrient-rich soil.
- Sow seeds in late May or early June, when they can have exposure to abundant warmth and sunshine for at least four months.
- Once flowers appear, hand-pollinate the female blossoms for an added time advantage.
- Measure the growth rate of the fruits as they start to develop, thinning out the others.
- Make sure to protect your giant pumpkins from weeds and pests as they grow to magnificent sizes.
While still maintaining some of the original characteristics of their botanical forefathers, the biggest pumpkins have expanded the possibilities for autumn recreation. A direct result of human intervention, giant pumpkins reveal a great deal about cultural desires and patterns of consumption, and they continue to enchant the world.
- Environmental History, Object Analysis of the Giant Pumpkin, 2010
- Guinness World Records, Heaviest pumpkin
- National Gardening Association, How to Grow a Giant Pumpkin
- Oregon State University, Extension Service, How to grow a monster pumpkin
- Purdue University, New World Record for Giant Pumpkin