Over the weekend, history was made in New England. Retired cabinet maker Joe Jutras’ green squash weighed in at 2,118 pounds during a giant vegetable contest at Frerichs Farm in Warren, Rhode Island, securing the title of world’s largest, reports Michelle R. Smith at the Associated Press.
While growing the massive vegetable is a significant feat in and of itself, it puts Jutras in a rarefied category. This is the third record he’s set for growing giant vegetables, making him the first producer to win the world’s largest title in three categories. In 2006, he grew the world’s longest gourd, a 10-foot, 6.5 inch wonder. And in 2007, he produced the world’s heaviest pumpkin a 1,689 pound beast. Both of those records have since been surpassed, but the green squash record will hopefully stand for a little while longer.
“Oh it was like — my feet weren't on the ground,” the 62-year-old mega-veg master tells Amy Held at NPR. “I've been chomping at the bit for this one.”
As Smith reports, Jutras came close to the record a few years ago, but his squash split, disqualifying it from competition. This year, after retiring from his work as a cabinet maker, he dedicated more time to the vegetable. Jutras started with a genetic advantage, getting some seed from 2016’s record-setting squash, Scott Holub’s 1844.5 pound monster grown in Oregon last year.
Held reports that Jutras was meticulous about his squash. First, he grew mustard on his squash patch, which acts as a natural fumigant. After that he added chicken manure then covered the soil with black plastic to cook off any weeds or disease pathogens. He then selected the strongest plant from the two-dozen seedlings he grew, transferring it to the prepared ground.
By mid summer, the plant was growing a foot a day, reports Held. Jutras fed it 15 gallons of fertilizer daily and 150 gallons of water, covering it with a blanket at night. He also surrounded it with sand so he could detect any rodents that might try to gnaw on the prize produce. He even cut vacations short to tend to his mega-squash. “You have to keep your eye on details,” Jutras tells Held. "It's the little things you do through the course of a year that make a difference. You can't take any shortcuts."
For his efforts, reports Tom Mooney at The Providence Journal, Jutras has earned a green jacket to go along with the orange jacket he earned for his mammoth pumpkin.
The giant squash will meet its end at the New York Botanical Garden where it will be carved into an enormous jack-o-lantern. But Jutras tells Held he wants the seeds, just in case he tries to break the record once more. Then again, he might try his hand at the bushel gourd, reports Smith. The record for that portly produce stands at 279 pounds.
Editor's Note, November 2, 2017: This article originally stated the squash was on display at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. It is at the New York Botanical Garden.