Hello gourd-geous! Travis Gienger from Anoka, Minnesota won the 50th World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off with a pumpkin weighing a whopping 2,749 pounds. This year’s victorious, lumpy veggie is named Michael Jordan and it could be baked into almost 700 pies.
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According to Guinness World Records, the previous world record holder for heaviest pumpkin was a 2,702 pound squash grown in Italy in 2021.
Gienger is a horticulture teacher at Anoka Technical College who has been growing pumpkins for almost three decades, currently nurturing the behemoths in a patch in his backyard. This year, he decided to give the plants some extra care by watering them up to 12 times per day, in addition to extra fertilizing and feeding.
He is a second generation great pumpkin grower, who first competed at the annual weigh-off in Half Moon Bay, California in 2020. Since then, he has won three of the city’s last four giant pumpkin contests. His 2,350 pound pumpkin named Tiger King won in 2020. The somehow even bigger pumpkin Maverick won in 2022 at 2,560 pounds.
He also shares the world record for the largest jack-’o-lantern by circumference. He won this prestigious honor in October 2022 for a pumpkin carved to look like an eagle with a circumference of 242 inches.
“I put in the work so that I can put a smile on people’s faces and it’s just so nice coming out here to see everyone in this town,” Gienger told The Associated Press.
Gienger won a $30,000 prize, most of which he plans to put into his daughter’s college fund and the rest will be used to “reinvest in the hobby.”
The annual Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival draws thousands of visitors every fall for multiple pumpkin-themed activities. The coastal city is known for large pumpkin patches, making it an ideal spot for this festival.
Growing these giant gourds first took off during the 1970s, but it was not until 1996 that the first 1,000 pounder hit the pumpkin scene. Growers use special seeds that are annually swapped to create giant gourds. A pumpkin’s growing season can last over 100 days, giving them significantly more time to reach these titanic proportions than other crops. They also have a thick and woody rind that protects them better than other vegetables that have a high concentration of water.
[Related: These fungi demand more pumpkin in their pumpkin spice lattes.]
Most record-breaking pumpkins are a variety called Dill’s Atlantic Giant. They have been bred to produce increasingly large offspring. Some prize winners could have some innate advantages, including larger vascular tissue or a natural ability to grow faster, resist pests, or take in more nutrients from the soil.
When not artificially flavoring lattes, getting carved up for decoration, or being the center of competitions, pumpkins are an excellent food to eat. They are chock full of nutrients that support the immune system, are heart-healthy, and their versatility makes them easy to fit into different types of dishes.