“The Patriot” isn’t the largest giant pumpkin Valley View Farms has ever displayed, but it’s certainly one of the better looking ones, greenhouse manager Carrie Engel said.
The pale behemoth, weighing in at 1,776 pounds — a number matching the year Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, hence the gourd’s name — sits center stage at the Cockeysville garden center, where it was hauled by a forklift Sept. 30, and where it will stay throughout October.
“You eat about a pound of pumpkin per pie,” Engel said. “So you can imagine how many pies you can make from that thing.”
Enough for more than 1,770 people, if that were to be the pumpkin’s fate.
Valley View Farms has been shipping in giant gourds from growers up north, usually in upstate New York and occasionally as far as Canada, for more than 30 years, starting when the largest giant pumpkin on record was 755 pounds, Engel said.
They’ve grown much larger since then, thanks to giant pumpkin growers trading seed variants and breeding the largest among them, said Matt Stromberger, a Valley View Farm]s employee; a Belgium pumpkin grower holds the Guinness World Record for the 2,624.6-pound beast he cultivated in 2016.
Giant pumpkins can be quite gray and sullen-looking — and given that they can grow up to 40 pounds in one day, Engel said, it’s no surprise they often look a bit wonky.
“We’ve had them rot on us before,” she said. “This is a good-looking pumpkin; it’s just healthy all around.”
For those browsing the squashes, corn stalks and Halloween decorations or navigating the straw bail maze with their kids, The Patriot is the perfect prop for a seasonal selfie.
It’s also a tempting jungle gym for the youngsters it dwarfs; although, Engel cautions, children should take care not to fall straight through it.
“We don’t want that to happen again,” she said ruefully.
The Patriot was bought from a hobbyist grower in upstate New York who declined an interview through Stromberger. In more typical times, Stromberger would join Valley View Farms owner Andy Foard in a trip north to pumpkin country — Saratoga Falls, to be exact.
The New York town puts on an annual Giant Pumpkin Fest, weighing the massive squashes and handing out prizes for the heftiest.
This is usually where Valley View Farms buys a handful of giant pumpkins, but the giant gourd extravaganza, scheduled for this weekend, was canceled.
Even amid the pandemic, the traditional seed-guessing contest at Valley View Farms will continue, giving patrons the chance to win hundreds of dollars in gift cards that can be used at the garden center.
Looks can be deceiving though, Engel said. One year, one of the pumpkins yielded just one seed.
The seeds are then returned to the growers who harvested the pumpkin, Stromberger said.
As for the rest of the pumpkin?
It’ll go to the rescue of potbellied pigs at Whispering Rise Farm and Animal Sanctuary in Freeland.