What does it take to produce the largest butternut squash ever grown? Growing giant vegetables is no easy feat.
Veteran veggie growers work hard, obtaining just the right seeds and monitoring growing conditions all season long. And sometimes, all that dedication pays off.
In October 2022 a farmer from Charlotte, Michigan set the world of giant gourds abuzz with a butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata) that broke a world record for weight.
Just how much did this stupendous squash weigh?
Bigger than a Hellfire Missile!
Michigan grower Derek Ruthruff knew he had something special when he entered the competition at Dundee’s Pumpkin Palooza. The yearly event in Dundee, Michigan has seen its share of supersize squash. But never this big a butternut.
The prize-winning butternut, a variety that typically weighs a mere 2 to 3 pounds, tipped the scales at a whopping 104.5 pounds (47.4 kilograms). That’s half a pound heavier than a full hellfire missile!
A representative of the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth (an actual organization that monitors such competitions) was at the Palooza to verify the results.
Ruthruff, who said he “wanted to set this record as an example to my children,” also won himself a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.
While that hefty butternut is now in the annals of significant squashes, a couple from Barnesville, Ohio managed to grow another giant squash that received tributes from around the world.
Known as the Skinner squash, the green-colored giant weighed in at a whopping 2,164 pounds. That’s over a ton!
Other record-breaking veggies include:
- The heftiest cucumber, 23 pounds, 7 ounces (12.9 kg) from UK grower David Thomas,
- heaviest pumpkin, 2,702 pounds, 13.9 ounces (1,226 kg) grown by Stefano Cutrupi, from Italy, and,
- weightiest watermelon, 350.5 pounds (159 kg) grown in the UK by Peter Glazebrook.
Growing these gargantuan fruits and vegetables is a labor of love with lots of gardening know-how mixed in.
The Vegetable Champions
The world of competitive vegetable growing has become a very popular pastime. While many big veggies come from the state of Alaska, folks in the UK are also obsessed over titanic tomatoes and colossal cauliflower.
The National Giant Vegetables Championship is a yearly event in Malvern England. Growers gather from all over the UK to win prize money, break records, and “make history.” The pumpkins alone are so “great” that forklifts are needed to transport them.
The 2022 Malvern event saw 11 new Guinness World Records set. That included the longest leek, 56.37 inches (1.432 meters), and a tremendous turnip, measuring over 15 feet long (4.605 meters).
The Master’s Touch
While an occasional giant gourd may grow all on its own, those who participate competitively give the growing season their full-time attention.
The Skinners have won many awards over the years for their pumpkins and squash, but their 2021 world-record giant green gourd was the biggest surprise ever.
“We had a rough idea that it was going to weigh nice,” Donna Skinner told a TV station, “but not that heavy.”
The couple devotes over 50 hours a week to tending their squash and pumpkin crops. Their prize-winning 2,164-pound squash started life in a small pot inside their house! That year they also made waves with a prize-winning pumpkin that was carefully shipped to Texas to appear in a car commercial.
The biggest-ever butternut squash was also tended carefully. Derek Ruthruff grew the prize winner using special seeds obtained from the previous record-holding butternut. That was a mere baby at only 55.5 pounds (25.1 kg). Ruthruff planted his special squash on April 15, 2022, and even recorded the date the plant was pollinated — July 21.
Land of the Midnight Growing Season
Alaska might be the last state you would think of for agricultural production. But there’s something special about its location when it comes to cultivating giant crops.
Although the growing season is short, parts of Alaska will receive over 20 hours of sun during the summer. That can make for some hefty fruits and vegetables.
The Alaska State Fair holds a veggie competition each year, and the results do not disappoint.
The two main fair competitions are for pumpkins and cabbages, but other veggies compete as well. In 2021 Alaskan growers set some new records for an 11-pound fennel, an 8-inch okra pod, and a hot pepper over 15 inches long.
The fair officials keep meticulous records going back to the 1980s, making sure that no one forgets the 42-pound beet or the whopping 63-pound celery, which was a world record in 2003.
None of the food entries at the Alaska State Fair go to waste.
In 2021 officials donated nearly 400 pounds of potatoes, cauliflower, and kale to feed local seniors. And some giant veggies, such as leafy greens and gourds, help Alaskan wildlife survive. Every year up to 1,000 pounds of commodities left over from the competition are donated to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center for bears, bison, caribou, and moose to feast on.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Jun Zhang/iStock via Getty Images
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