How Truly Massive Is The World's Heaviest Pumpkin?

In the fairy tale "Cinderella," the titular heroine rides to the ball in a pumpkin turned into a carriage. Looking at most pumpkins sold at the grocery store or placed on porch stoops for Halloween, that transformation seems hard to fathom. It might be more believable, though, if you were looking at the world's heaviest pumpkin ever grown. That record was broken in 2023, when Travis Gienger of Anoka, Minnesota came in first at the 50th World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off in California with a 2,749-pound behemoth, NBC News reported. To put that in perspective, Gardening FAQs says the average carving pumpkin weighs between 20 and 30 pounds. Gienger's record-breaking pumpkin, then, was about 90 times heavier than its smaller cousins. 

Gienger's gourd, in fact, was about as heavy as a compact car, like a Toyota Corolla, which Bankrate says weighs between 2,600 and 3,000 pounds. Meanwhile, Charleston CARES says horse-drawn carriages are around 1,800 pounds on average. Therefore, it's far easier to believe the world champion pumpkin could be a vehicle. According to the CDC, it weighs about the same as 14 American men, so it could accommodate more than a few passengers. 

A history-making pumpkin

According to Guinness World Records, Travis Gienger is no stranger to growing enormous pumpkins. In 2022, he grew a 2,560-pound pumpkin nicknamed Maverick, which set the U.S. record. On the challenge of growing giant pumpkins in his home state of Minnesota, Gienger told the Associated Press that year, "Minnesota has a great midyear, but our spring in our parts is really, really tough. So to do it in Minnesota, it just shouldn't happen. It's like winning the Tour de France on a big wheel. You know, you can only hope, but it worked."

And what did Gienger call his 2023 champion? Michael Jordan, of course. Gieger told KSTP-TV that the winning pumpkin "started out basketball round, and I said this is going to be a perfectly round basketball-shaped pumpkin." Gienger teaches horticulture and had been growing pumpkins for nearly three decades before his first-place finish. On his champion gourd, he told NBC News, "I was not expecting that. It was quite the feeling." And in case you were wondering, Michael Jordan could make around 700 pumpkin pies and scored a $30,000 grand prize. 

Bigger and bigger

Travis Gienger's history-making pumpkin was not the first pumpkin to rival a car's weight.He beat the previous record-holder, Stefano Cutrupi's 2,702-pound champion grown in Italy. Giant pumpkin competitions have become something of an arms race in the last half-century. In 1900, a pumpkin won the Paris World's Fair competition for weighing in at only 400 pounds, according to TIME. Then, a 1904 record for a 403-pound pumpkin then held for 75 years, per The Oregonian. It was finally broken in 1978 by Howard Dill of Nova Scotia, with a nearly 439-pound pumpkin. He spent three decades trying to breed for size, and came up with the Dill's Atlantic Giant variety. 

As of 2017, all world record breakers sprouted from his seeds. By 2012, the first pumpkin weighing more than a ton had been grown by Ron Wallace of Rhode Island. Anyone can grow a pumpkin from Dill's Atlantic Giant seeds, but competitive growers will pay as much as $1,600 for the auctioned seeds of championship winners. These growers are still trying to push the limit on pumpkin plump. "I hope I can see 3,000. Maybe 3,500. Heck, we might have the first two-ton pumpkin out there. It could happen," Great Pumpkin Commonwealth president Dave Stelts told TIME.