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September 19, 2017
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America is floundering in its intense rivalry with Europe to grow the biggest pumpkin in the world, Smithsonian reports. While the orange fruit is a New World native, farmers in Belgium, Switzerland, and Britain are approaching the benchmark of growing a 3,000-pound pumpkin while America lags behind. "They're doing very well, and I tip my hat to them," said Rhode Island pumpkin grower Ron Wallace, who, in addition to being a very good sport, grew the first squash to ever break 1,500 pounds in 2006.

America used to reign in the pumpkin department specifically because the plants adore the ideal environment of New England. "Summer days are in the mid-80s, maximizing photosynthesis without desiccating the bloated fruit, and the semi-northerly locale means bonus sunlight hours throughout the growing season," Smithsonian writes. "By June the burgeoning giants are growing at an exponential rate, and by August, they're packing on one to two pounds per hour, while guzzling about 100 gallons of water every day."

Europe, though, has figured out how to remedy its less-than-ideal meteorological conditions:

Europe's subsequent rise has been defined by the controversy over indoor growing. The Old World's big players cluster in Northern Europe, where the weather is often harsher than New England's. However, high-tech greenhouses with heating and air-conditioning, irrigation systems, automatic fertilization, and other frills allow growers to mimic, and in the last few seasons, maybe even improve upon a New England-like climate. There are no ravenous white-tailed deer in greenhouses, and it can be a perfect June afternoon in Vermont every day of the year. [Smithsonian]

That's good news if you like pumpkins big enough to be watercrafts — but bad news if you're an amateur pumpkin grower toiling in America's Northeast. Read more about how farmers and plant scientists are racing to grow the biggest pumpkin at Smithsonian. Jeva Lange