Top squash tips scales at 870.5 pounds

Giant pumpkins aren't as suitable for eating as other varieties.
CANFIELD -- Giant pumpkins -- they're really squash -- keep getting bigger every year.
Jerry Rose of Geauga County set a Canfield Fair record last year with his 831-pound squash. This year, his record for a giant squash grew almost 40 pounds larger -- 870 1/2 pounds.
He also had a 1,035-pound squash, said Anita Beeson, superintendent of the pumpkin barn, but it split.
Although the monster squash look like they're tough enough to withstand almost anything, they're actually very fragile, Beeson said. They can easily split, crack or collapse from their own weight. "That's why we don't want anyone touching them," she said.
To get them out of the fields, growers use heavy-duty tarps to hoist them onto a trailer or truck. At the fair, they're placed on wooden pallets and moved -- very carefully -- by forklifts.
The second-heaviest squash this year weighed in at 748 pounds. It was grown by Alan Gibson of Salem.
The giant squash are steadily growing bigger, Beeson explained, because growers are using more sophisticated growing techniques.
The seed is from the best and biggest squash, fertilizers are specifically tailored, and some growers even inject their squash with whatever they think might make it grow bigger, everything from milk to birth control pills, Beeson said.
Not good eating
Most of the giant squash are used for display and for seeds rather than cooking. They aren't as well suited to eating as some of the other varieties, she said, because their sugar content is so low.
Growers raise them strictly as a hobby. Many belong to the Ohio Valley Giant Pumpkin Growers Association, where they share information and compete in statewide and national weigh-ins, Beeson said.
Most members of the association who have squash on display at the fair -- Rose and Gibson both belong to the Giant Pumpkin Growers Association -- probably have even larger specimens still growing in their fields, she said.
The statewide and national competitions are more prestigious, Beeson noted, so they keep them growing as long as they can while hoping they'll get even bigger.
The giant squash are on display in the pumpkin barn at the northern end of the fairgrounds.
Pumpkins, gourds and scarecrows are also on display there.

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