National Geographic : 2009 Oct
PHOTOS: ESSDRAS M. SUAREZ, BOSTON GLOBE/LANDOV; REBECCA HALE, NG STAFF TOP CULTURE Pumped Up In the world of giant pumpkins, a 500-pounder is a pip-squeak. "People don't even blink at 'em," says Danny Dill of Howard Dill Enterprises, which sells seeds whose DNA destines them for hugeness. The record is 1,689 pounds, set in 2007. "Within five years," predicts Dill, "you'll see a 2,000-pound pumpkin." Dill's late dad was a giant-pumpkin pioneer. In the 1960s the fan of "biggest vegetable" contests fixated on pumpkins---much of their weight is water, so supersizing is relatively easy. Lots of nutrients and water work wonders on the right seed. Today farmers and obsessed amateurs worldwide pollinate a female flower from an apt male bloom and pick one pumpkin per vine to pamper. "My wife says I love the pumpkin more than I love her," says Jamie Johnson of Arvada, Colorado, who tends his crop an hour each summer night. After vying for prizes that can hit $10,000, the gourds become jack-o'-lanterns, compost, even boats for a wacky regatta. Sadly, huge pumpkins aren't as flavorful as the typical 20-pound specimen. Not that growers mind: They're in it for the zen of gardening and the thrill of a colossal squash. "I don't even like pumpkin pie," says Jim Gerhardt of Berks County, Pennsylvania. ---Marc Silver A giant pumpkin seed (right) is often bigger than the garden variety (above). A tiny crack in the bottom of New Englander Steve Connolly's 1,568-pound pumpkin cost it a prize last year.