Giant Vegetable Gardeners

Is there a sinister plot afoot when gardeners covet titles for cultivating extremely large vegetables?

| May/June 2009

  • Nalls Farm Market near Leesburg, Pennsylvania
    This giant pumpkin was photographed at Nalls Farm Market south of Leesburg, Pennsylvania.
    Ron Salmon
  • Gritty in a pumpkin boat
    Trailing the competition in a pumpkin boat race, Gritty makes good use of his telescope.
    Brad Anderson
  • Giant cabbage
    Can you imagine the cole slaw recipe for this cabbage?
    Joseph Rychetnik/Photo Researchers Inc.

  • Nalls Farm Market near Leesburg, Pennsylvania
  • Gritty in a pumpkin boat
  • Giant cabbage

As a failed vegetable grower, I stand in awe of those of you whose gardens produce enough fresh produce to feed the entire population of Des Moines. I salute any gardener who harvests so many tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and roasting ears that local food pantries make daily pick-ups.

Monster vegetables, on the other hand, scare the pants off me. There’s something sinister about a pumpkin the size of a compact car, or a carrot that outweighs a bowling ball. In the photographs I’ve seen, monster vegetables are mostly giant, misshapen blobs that resemble alien life forms from another planet. Think Jabba the Hutt threatening to slime the members of Star Fleet Command.

Pick any vegetable, and somebody, somewhere, holds the record for growing the biggest specimen. In the world of giant pumpkins, which is pretty much the Super Bowl for monster produce, a Massachusetts grower set a new world record in 2007 with a behemoth weighing 1,684 pounds. Not long ago, a fellow from Arkansas raised a watermelon weighing 268.8 pounds. And an Oklahoma gardener holds the world record for a tomato weighing 7 pounds, 12 ounces.

Like me, you’re probably asking yourself, “What’s with these people?” After all, you can’t exactly fit an 1,100-pound squash in the oven. And my guess is a 49-pound stalk of celery tastes pretty much like a stick of firewood. 

I’m thinking the people who grow monsters are compelled by an abnormal desire to outsmart Mother Nature, who intended for her pumpkins to weigh a measly 10 or 20 pounds.

You all remember the scenes from “Frankenstein’s Monster,” right? Where Dr. Frankenstein is assembling body parts in the lah-boor-ah-tory? Now picture old Doc Frankenstein in the potting shed, explaining gardening to his trusty sidekick, Igor.

Jean Teller_1
4/23/2009 11:17:15 AM

Now that's a baked potato, Dennis! I love baked potatoes, but I would never be able to eat one that size in one setting - might work for a week's worth of lunches tho! LOL What toppings went on that behemoth?

Dennis Miller
4/19/2009 2:55:57 PM

First year experiments with foil colored plastic mulch had good results with one of the potato plants yielding 12lbs 1oz worth of tubers. Largest tuber was 1lbs 14oz. Took almost 2 hours to bake it.

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