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From the News-Ledger
Oct. 13, 2010

copyright News-Ledger 2010











                              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 do. 

   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 gourds.  

  “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 win:  

  “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.  

  You can email him at henkinscott@yahoo.com.    
  

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