Thursday, October 9, 2008

Genetic freakshow

It's October, and I guess this is the point in time when I should be posting pumpkin photos. However, the one pumpkin I found growing in the MSG has already been harvested.  Also, while my daughter and I spent a few hours at the Topsfield Fair last night, we were too busy riding elephants and ferris wheels and watching Canadian mounties parade their horses in formation that we never made it to the pumpkins.  If we did, we still would not have caught a glimpse of history in the making; as you may have already seen or read in the news, a farmer from Sharon (located about an hour south of Boston) has been growing the world's largest pumpkin.  Latest reports have it weighing in at 1,878 pounds and gaining 11 pounds a day.  Tomorrow in Warren, Massachusetts, there will be a competition during which the broken record will become official.

What's the secret to an enormous pumpkin?  Well, obviously you need to start with a genetic seed.  In this case Steve Connolly used Atlantic Giant seeds originally patented by a Nova Scotia farmer, and kept it thriving on a diet that included North American kelp, cow manure, maple leaf compost, and fish fertilizer.  Growing these megapumpkins has become quite the sport these days; I wouldn't be surprised if a new record of over a ton will be established next year.

I feel a little sorry for these plants, even if they have no brains.  They sort of remind me of child models and athletes that have been cultivated and paraded around, unable to live a normal life.  What happens to a pumpkin that size when it dies?  Does this variety taste good enough for pie?  Could you start your own roasted seed business?  You couldn't just put in in the compost, you would need to cut it up so it could fit into several bins, or just dump it in the trash.  Maybe Connolly will preserve his just like someone would stuff an animal.

If genetic engineering could produce something of such an unnatural size, I wonder what's next.

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