The pasty, lopsided pumpkin on display in Rhode Island was not about to win any botanical beauty contests. But if its orange rind had an elephant-gray tinge, that was only fitting. The squash’s monster bulk sent it crashing into the record books: At 2,261.5 pounds — a weight on par with a small convertible sports car — the pumpkin was North America’s largest ever.
This Godzilla of the gourds was the product of friendly father-son competition. Grower Richard Wallace of Greene, R.I., clinched the title from his son, Ron, whose 2,230-pound fruit set the record in 2015. The new champion pumpkin was measured Saturday at the annual Frerichs Farm Pumpkin Weigh-Off.
Giant pumpkins have beefed up immensely since the fruits broke the 500-pound barrier in the 1980s. “Basically it’s like horse racing,” Ron Wallace, who was the first person to grow a 1-ton pumpkin, told Smithsonian magazine in 2015. “We’re breeding big pumpkins into big pumpkins every year to create bigger pumpkins.”
It is possible that, within a decade or two, a master pumpkineer’s produce could tip the scales at 3,000 pounds, according to Danny Dill, son of legendary gourd grower Howard Dill. (Three decades ago, Howard Dill created the Atlantic Giant pumpkin variety.)
When it comes to pumpkin growth, growers seem less concerned about genetics — through selective breeding, humans have massaged wolves into chihuahuas and Great Danes, after all — than physics. (One team of scientists estimated in 2011 that a pumpkin, under ideal growing conditions, could theoretically tip the scales at 20,000 pounds.) But as pumpkins grow larger, the force of gravity threatens the gourds with catastrophic collapse.
By focusing on thickness as well as weight, gardeners hope to create structurally sound behemoths. As the younger Dill told Inverse in September 2015, he is cultivating a squash that is “pretty well solid right through to the cavity.”
These novelty squash are small now, but “weigh twice as heavy as they look,” he said. “So imagine if one of these giant pumpkins were solid almost all the way through to the cavity?”
Structural damage kept Swiss gardener Beni Meier from officially claiming the world’s largest pumpkin in 2015. His 2,328-pounder was disqualified from taking the title because of a hole in its side.