Good Life

Living Local: A great pumpkin

Jonathan Freeberg, of Osceola Mills, is raising a Checkon pumpkin, which he estimates to weigh about 979 pounds.
Jonathan Freeberg, of Osceola Mills, is raising a Checkon pumpkin, which he estimates to weigh about 979 pounds. CDT photo

When some people plant things in their gardens, they hope for a nice big crop.

Jonathan Freeberg, of Osceola Mills planted a garden with great expectations. He got exactly one pumpkin, but his crop is still, well, awfully big.

The pumpkin he is growing isn’t your typical jack-o’-lantern. In good Halloween spirit, though, it is a monster. As of Oct. 2, it was an estimated 979 pounds. That’s a lot of squash.

Another man in the area had been growing the enormous produce for years, drawing Freeberg’s interest.

“Then one buddy started growing them about six years ago. I watched that and just got into growing them,” he said.

Last year was the first time he tried his hand at gigantic gourd gardening. He walked away with a robust 368-pound starter squash. His interest blossomed from there.

His small yard only has room for one monster-sized plant at a time. Wife Brandi and his kids enjoy the pumpkin project as much as he does.

“Luckily my wife doesn’t have a problem with it,” said Freeberg. Son Gage, 3, likes to help take care of the fruit that is now almost big enough for a preschool playhouse.

Growing a giant pumpkin isn’t as easy as picking up a seedling at the store and dropping it in the ground. In addition to special hybrid seeds that will grow into record-breaking territory, gargantuans need lots of babying. Seed company Burpee says soil conditions have to be just right, not too densely packed or too wet, and the plants need a lot of water and a lot of sun.

The next step for the prodigious pumpkin is a journey to Altoona, where it will be officially weighed at Sam’s Club with other scale-tippers. Freeberg is hoping it doesn’t make the trip home.

“I’m hoping to sell it,” he said. Buyers have taken some of the bigger produce as far as New York or Florida to spend the autumn holidays at businesses as ample accessories.

If it was smaller, he would be happy to take it home and use it to decorate his own yard. The one place it wouldn’t end up? On the table.

“I don’t think it would make a very good pie,” said Freeberg. “I don’t know that anyone has ever tried with one of these.”

It probably isn’t a good idea. According to www.allaboutpumpkins.com, the best pie pumpkins are the smaller varieties, like Sugar Pies or Cinderellas, which are sweeter and have less fibrous flesh. The bigger they grow, like the larger, hollower Jack-O’-Lantern variety that is traditionally used for carving, the less tasty they become.

Next year, Freeberg hopes to grow one even bigger, shooting for about 1,100 pounds or more, but growing a treat that huge can be a real trick.

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