A giant pumpkin being grown in Japan

A giant pumpkin is an orange fruit of the squash Cucurbita maxima, commonly weighing from 68 kilograms (150 lb) to over 910 kilograms (2,010 lb).[1]


Growing giant pumpkins emerged out of the North American agricultural tradition. The Smithsonian notes that "improbably", giant pumpkins trace themselves to Henry David Thoreau, who in 1857 grew a pumpkin weighing 123 lb (56 kg), which he detailed in his unfinished work Wild Fruits.[2] The first competition giant pumpkins were grown by William Warnock of Ontario, Canada. His first record was 365 lb (166 kg), measured at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. In 1900, Warnock's 400 lb (180 kg) pumpkin was exhibited at the Paris World's Fair, and won a bronze medal. He beat his own record four years later, and began to provide advice to other growers on how to achieve large pumpkin yields. Warnock's record stood for some 70 years before a pumpkin growing renaissance emerged, and records were quickly shattered. Growing giant pumpkins remains a mostly North American pursuit, especially in the Northeastern United States, although several recent record holders have been European.[3][4]

Giant pumpkin growing has inspired numerous related activities, including giant pumpkin boat races, and pumpkin chucking. Giant pumpkins are often exhibited at county fairs and related exhibitions.[3][5]


Giant pumpkins are Cucurbita maxima, a different species from the pumpkins used for jack-o'-lanterns or pumpkin pies, which are usually C. pepo. C. maxima likely emerged from wild squash in South America near Buenos Aires. Their large size was likely influenced by now extinct large gomphotheres and giant ground sloths, which were the main consumers of the fruits.[2]

Agricultural field with three very large pumpkins
Giant pumpkins in Howard Dill's Nova Scotia patch, 2004

Unusually large pumpkin cultivars have been sold since at least 1834, when the 'Mammoth' variety was first offered. Little formal scientific effort has gone into finding giant pumpkins, instead increasing yields have been selected by mostly ordinary growers. Many recent pumpkins have been of the 'Dill's Atlantic Giant' cultivar selected by Howard Dill and likely descended from 'Mammoth'. Seeds of prize winning giant pumpkins are extremely valuable, with single seeds selling for up to US$850. Pedigrees similar to ones used in horse racing have been adopted for use with giant pumpkins.[3] Despite their enormous size, they are not generally eaten, as they are not particularly tasty, and may be inedible.[2]

Giant pumpkins may expand by up to 50 lb (23 kg) a day. This is made possible by several genetic adaptions. Giant pumpkin cells grow larger than regular pumpkins, and are composed of more water (up to 94%). They also lack genes that stop fruit growth, resulting in continuous expansion.[3] Once pumpkins grow so large, they tend to no longer be round but will flatten out under their own intense weight. They will often form an arch shape on the bottom of the pumpkin for additional support as they "pancake" out.[6] Some pumpkins may even collapse under their own weight, and transporting them is a significant challenge due to their fragility.[4][6] Champion growers often grow many pumpkins, as pumpkins that crack under their own weight will be disqualified from competition.[2]

Genetics are only part of the enormous size growers can achieve. Improved agricultural techniques, including pruning so that there is only one fruit per vine, maximizing soil tilth, and modern pest control are important factors. Some competitors set up an IV-like cannula to deliver nutrient-rich fluids directly to the stem that feeds the growing fruit. Pumpkins grown at high latitudes tend to be larger, as they have longer daylight hours and cooler, but shorter, summer seasons. However, seasons can be extended in the north by using cloches or other coverings. The time from seeding to harvest is usually 130 to 140 days, compared to 90 to 120 days for non giants.[3][4][7] Folk wisdom in the early 20th century held that feeding milk to the pumpkins would help them grow, but this does not likely affect size.[3] Modern growers may use professional soil laboratory analysis to ensure ideal soil nutrition.[5] Giant pumpkins are heavy feeders, and some farmers may use over 1,000 lb (450 kg) of chicken manure to fertilize pumpkins, following in the footsteps of Warnock, whose first champion fruits were fertilized by chicken manure. Fungal mycorrhizal and Azospirillum bacterial soil amendments have gained popularity in recent years.[2]

World record giant pumpkins by year

Pumpkin at the Auburn Community Festival

Since the 1970s, pumpkin records have routinely been beaten. The rate of record growth has been increasing at a linear rate and does not appear to be slowing down, indicating that there are still substantial genetic and cultural improvements to be made in giant pumpkin growing.[3] Structurally, calculations by David Hu of Georgia Tech indicate that a perfect pumpkin could grow up to 20,000 lb (9,100 kg) without breaking. Other factors, such as overly rapid hydration, can still cause fruit to crack. This is caused by the volume of delivered fluids outpacing the growth rate and flexibility of the skin; much like a bursting balloon.[2] The true upper limit regardless of structural stability and cracks is likely determined by other factors. For example, the number of sieve tube elements in the sugar-conducting phloem in a stem limit the amount of resources available to grow the fruit. There is also a consideration of the climate, diseases, pests, and growing season duration.[8] Every year, about 10,000 growers attempt to grow champion pumpkins, and several thousand make it to official weigh-offs.[5]

World record holders
Year Grower Location Weight Reference
2023 Travis Gienger Minnesota 2,749 pounds (1,247 kg) [9]
2021 Stefano Cutrupi Italy 2,703 pounds (1,226 kg) [10][11]
2016 Mathias Willemijns Belgium 2,624.6 pounds (1,190.5 kg) [12]
2014 Beni Meier Switzerland 2,323.7 lb (1,054.0 kg) [13]
2013 Tim Mathison California 2,032 lb (922 kg) [14]
2012 Ron Wallace Rhode Island 2,009 lb (911 kg) [15]
2011 Jim and Kelsey Bryson Quebec 1,818.5 lb (824.9 kg) [16]
2010 Chris Stevens Wisconsin 1,810.5 lb (821.2 kg) [17]
2009 Christy Harp Ohio 1,725 lb (782 kg) [18]
2007 Joe Jutras Rhode Island 1,689 lb (766 kg) [19]
2006 Ron Wallace Rhode Island 1,502 lb (681 kg) [a]
2005 Larry Checkon Pennsylvania 1,469 lb (666 kg) [a]
2004 Al Eaton Ontario 1,446 lb (656 kg) [a]
2003 Steve Daletas Oregon 1,385 lb (628 kg) [a]
2002 Charlie Houghton New Hampshire 1,337.6 lb (607 kg) [a]
2001 Geneva Emmons Washington 1,262 lb (572 kg) [a]
2000 Dave Stelts Ohio 1,140 lb (517 kg) [a]
1999 Gerry Checkon Pennsylvania 1,131 lb (513 kg) [a]
1998 Gary Burke Ontario 1,092 lb (495 kg) [a]
1996 Nathan and Paula Zehr New York 1,061 lb (481 kg) [a]
1994 Herman Bax Ontario 990 lb (449 kg) [a]
1993 Donald Black New York 884 lb (401 kg) [a]
1992 Joel Holland Washington 827 lb (375 kg) [a]
1990 Ed Gancarz New Jersey 816.5 lb (370 kg) [a]
1989 Gordon Thomson Ontario 755 lb (342 kg) [a]
1984 Norm Gallagher Washington 612 lb (276 kg) [a]
1981 Howard Dill Nova Scotia 493.5 lb (224 kg) [a]
1980 Howard Dill Nova Scotia 459 lb (208 kg) [a]
1976 Edgar Van Wyck Manitoba 453 lb (206 kg) [20]
1976 Bob Ford Pennsylvania 451 lb (205 kg) [a]
1904 William Warnock Ontario 403 lb (183 kg) [a]
1900 William Warnock Ontario 400 lb (181 kg) [21]

See also


  1. "Don Langevin's Giant Pumpkin". giantpumpkin.com. Retrieved September 22, 2020.


  1. ^ Karl, J. R. 2014. Cleaning the Giant Pumpkin ISBN 9781512074567
  2. ^ a b c d e f Borrel, Brendan (October 2011). "The Great Pumpkin". Smithsonian. Retrieved April 11, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Janick, Jules (2008). "Giant Pumpkins: Genetic and Cultural Breakthroughs" (PDF). Chronica Horticulturae. 48 (3): 16–17.
  4. ^ a b c Andres, Thomas (October 26, 2010). "Origin of the Giant Pumpkin". Plant Talk. New York Botanical Garden. Retrieved April 11, 2021.
  5. ^ a b c "The Great Race To Grow the World's Largest Pumpkin". Time. Retrieved April 11, 2021.
  6. ^ a b "Here's how giant pumpkins get so big". Science News for Students. October 28, 2020. Retrieved April 11, 2021.
  7. ^ SanSone, Arricca (July 7, 2020). "Plant Pumpkins Now for a Fall Harvest". Country Living. Retrieved April 11, 2021.
  8. ^ Walker, Matt (January 13, 2015). "The biggest fruit in the world". BBC Earth. Retrieved January 15, 2015.
  9. ^ Miño-Bucheli, Sebastian (October 9, 2023). "A world record in Half Moon Bay". Half Moon Bay Review.
  10. ^ Millward, Adam (October 28, 2021). "Monster pumpkin heavier than a small car breaks world record". Guinness World Records.
  11. ^ "The largest pumpkin in the world comes from Italy and weighs over 1200 kg".
  12. ^ "Belgian man's pumpkin sets world record at a whopping 2,624 pounds". Washington Post.
  13. ^ "World record pumpkin seed bears fruit". BBC News. October 7, 2016.
  14. ^ Todorov, Kerana. "One-ton victory for Napa man's world-record pumpkin".
  15. ^ Marturana, Amy (October 5, 2012). "Ron Wallace Grows The Largest Pumpkin Breaking World Record (VIDEO)". Huff Post.
  16. ^ Paddock, Barry. "World's largest pumpkin - almost a ton - debuts at Bronx's Botanical Garden". NY Daily News.
  17. ^ Post, AP/Huffington (October 22, 2010). "World's Largest Pumpkin 2010: Chris Stevens's 1,810-Pound Gourd Declared New Record By Guinness (Photos)". Huff Post.
  18. ^ Miller, Tracy. "Record-breaking pumpkin thought to be world's largest weighs in at 1,725 pounds". NY Daily News.
  19. ^ "'My wife thinks I'm crazy:' Grower of gargantuan fruit nabs new record with world's largest squash". CBC News. Associated Press. October 11, 2017. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
  20. ^ "Memorable Manitobans: Edgar Herman Van Wyck (1904-1994)". mhs.mb.ca.
  21. ^ "Why Can't We Grow Fruit the Size of Cars?". National Geographic Culture. February 2, 2015. Archived from the original on April 12, 2021. Retrieved April 12, 2021.

Further reading