VANCOUVER — An enormous pumpkin nicknamed "Mama" grown in a Richmond, B.C., backyard has won first place in one of North America's most prestigious pumpkin contests, weighing in at more than a tonne.
Grower Dave Chan, 78, said "a lot of good science" went into his victory on Saturday in the National Pumpkin Weigh Off in Wheatland, Calif., where "Mama" tipped the scales at 1,003 kilograms, or 2,212 pounds.
It's the first time a Canadian pumpkin has won the weigh-off, said Brian Myers, chairman of the California Pumpkin Growers' Club.
Chan, a retired dentist, said the secret to growing a gargantuan gourd begins with good genetics.
After doing some research, he obtained Mama's seed from a friend in Michigan. The seed came from a 990-kilogram pumpkin.
Chan and his wife Janet Love sent soil samples from their pumpkin patch to a laboratory to calculate the extra nutrients Mama needed, including calcium, nitrogen and phosphorus. Chan said they uploaded the data into a spreadsheet to perfect their fertilizer.
“We don't just throw on a whole bunch of fertilizer. We're calculating exactly how much calcium, how much nitrogen … about 15 different elements to make plants grow really well. Pumpkin growing is half the study of soil science,” said Chan.
The next challenge was getting the pumpkin to Wheatland in one piece. They loaded Mama and another giant pumpkin onto a trailer and drove more than 1,300 kilometres to attend the weigh-in, which organizers say has been held since 1921.
“There are so many things that can happen to a pumpkin. They can crack and go rotten … so just to get to the weigh-off is quite an accomplishment and I feel very lucky,” said Chan.
Chan, who's been growing giant pumpkins for more than 40 years, won $28,000 – that's US$9 per pound – as well as a flashy championship belt, worthy of a heavyweight champion.
Chan said he and Love will use the money for a trip to Italy, where they plan to meet the grower of the world's heaviest pumpkin, which weighed in at 1,226 kilograms in 2021.
Meanwhile, they'll continue their U.S. road trip with Mama and her smaller trailer mate, which weighs about 725 kilograms, and will take part in another competition this month at Half Moon Bay, south of San Francisco.
After her road trip, Mama will be displayed on Chan and Love's Richmond driveway until after Halloween.
Then Chan said they would extract the pumpkin's seeds, before Mama's final journey to a pig farm. Pigs love to eat pumpkins, said Chan.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2023.
Nono Shen, The Canadian Press