The great pumpkin quest
Backyard Giants: The Passionate, Heartbreaking and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Susan Warren is a book about competitive giant pumpkin growing... and a fascinating read.
Giant pumpkin competitions might sound silly, but the growers are like elite athletes, pouring heart and soul and hundreds of hours of effort into their hobby. The author follows two of the world's best growers, Dick Warren and his son Ron, through the 2006 pumpkin growing season. This is gardening on a truly grand scale, from the planning to harvest. The father and son and their fellow competitors were on a quest to achieve a 1,500 pound championship pumpkin.
The Warrens are well-known and liked in the giant pumpkin growing community, which includes regional clubs, an international association called The Great Pumpkin Commonwealth, and a lively, interactive website, BigPumpkins.com.
Woodchucks and a mysterious pumpkin ailment known as "foaming stump slime" are just two of the many threats giant pumpkin growers face. In one touching section of the book, pumpkin club members spend hours bandaging and wrapping one grower's pumpkin vines after they were damaged by a storm. There is great camaraderie and sharing among club members but fierce competition at the weigh-ins.
Ms. Warren provides a fascinating peek into an intriguing subculture, showing the awesome dedication and sometimes scary obsessiveness that drives competitive giant pumpkin growers. But it also a book about the hope and aspirations that drive any enthusiast for any topic.