SCOTT HENKIN with a nearly half-ton pumpkin grown on his Southport farm
By Steve Marschke News-Ledger Editor
Scott Henkin grows bigger pumpkins than you
Everybody needs a hobby, and at least one of
this rural Southport man’s passions is to grow pumpkins for maximum size. The
half-acre pumpkin field next to his house looked like something out of “Jack
and the Beanstalk” a couple weeks ago, scattered with orange, boulder-sized
“I’m a retired peace officer,” Henkin
explained. “I retired from the California Youth Authority. This gives me
something to mess around with. There’s nothing you can really do with them –
their walls are about a foot thick, and they don’t have the sugar content of
the smaller pumpkins.”
But the pumpkins do give him the thrill of
competition at the annual Elk Grove Pumpkin and Harvest Festival, which
returned this month. Henkin used a small crane in his backyard to lift his
biggest pumpkin of the season onto his pickup truck, and took the
nearly-half-ton beast to Elk Grove for the weigh-in. It didn’t win – but Henkin
did repeat last year’s victory in the event’s pumpkin paddling contest.
He joined other paddlers, hollowing out one
of his specimens and using it as a boat for a 3-minute pumpkin race in a small
lake. For the second time in two years, the West Sacramentan won the event.
Does he train for the paddling frenzy?
“No, that would take the fun out of it,” the
51-year old told the News-Ledger before that race. But he recalled last year’s
“One of the reasons I won is the other guys
just got tired,” said Henkin. “I just outlasted them.”
The pumpkins are all variations of the
“Atlantic Giant” variety. Serious growers like Henkin would never dream of
letting them cross-pollinate in the fields naturally – they’d rather carefully
control the genetics, matching pollen between two specimens that have desirable
characteristics like size or color.
“You get some that are orange colored and
some that may be big, but not necessarily orange. You pick and choose. The day
before the flower is going to open, you put a bag over it so no bees or insects
can get at the pollen. When the flower opens, you rub the two (chosen) flowers
together by hand.”
The result is a cross between two known
varieties – and that’s the only kind a serious grower would bother growing, he
said. Serious giant pumpkin enthusiasts trade their seeds, identifying their
exact pedigree. There are no other real tricks to getting a monster pumpkin, he
said – just the usual “serious work” of fertilizing and watering.
Henkin is happy to share his giant pumpkin
seeds with anyone who asks.