ACROSS AMERICA — There’s a contest for everything, and pumpkins are no exception. You may be rightfully proud of that enormous pumpkin in your patch, but unless it weighs upward of 2,500 pounds, you’re not flirting with any kind of record.
Turning this year's pumpkin patch visit on its end — and let's face it, everything about 2020 is upended — why not give the kids in your coronavirus pandemic classroom a field trip?
Oodles of STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — lessons are possible while trudging around the hills of pumpkins.
Teach them a little about pi — not pumpkin pie, but the mathematical formula to calculate the circumference of a circle — or how to convert pounds to kilograms.
The largest pumpkin ever recorded in the United States was grown by Steve Geddes. The pumpkin that the Boscawen, New Hampshire, man grew in 2018 tipped the scale at 2,528 pounds to win the top prize at the Deerfield Fair. The impressively sized pumpkin was 165 pounds heavier than the previous U.S. record-holder.
Neither came close to besting world record-holder, Mathia Willemijn, whose 2016 record still stands for the 2,624.6-pound pumpkin that won that year’s European Weigh-Off in Germany, according to Guinness World Records, which describes the gourd as “car-sized.”
Whether pumpkins are in the 2,500- or 2,600-pound range, it’s a lot of pumpkin.
Ask the kiddos this: What else found in nature weighs that much?
A hippopotamus living in the wild can weigh about 5,800 pounds, but some of the smaller hippos weigh about the same as Geddes’ pumpkin.
The largest and heaviest bovine species is the Asian gaur. The bulls can weigh up to 2,500 pounds, but cows weigh significantly less. Another fun fact that separates these cattle from many other species: Both male and female gaurs have horns.
The world and U.S. record-setting pumpkins both are larger than the Australian saltwater crocodile, the largest croc species in the world. They can weigh more than 2,200 pounds.
And here’s another fun fact from Bengtson’s, a Chicago-area pumpkin patch, and perhaps a lesson in agriculture for the spring: The health of the vine matters.
“If you are attempting to grow a massive pumpkin, you should realize that the entire vine is working toward that same goal,” the site says. “All of the water and sunlight received by the leaves and roots are being dedicated to the single pumpkin.”
Making sure the pumpkin has room to grow is another key. Growers should tear out roots that may be near the pumpkin while taking care not to detach the stem.
Once the pumpkin reaches the size of a softball, remove all the other pumpkins from the vine so all the plant’s energy is directed at creating a prize-winning pumpkin.