Whopper winner dines on special menu
If Cinderella ever needs a pumpkin for a new coach, Appleby chimney sweep John McKay could be just the man to go to. For the second year in a row Mr McKay has taken first prize in the Mapua Mega Pumpkin competition. Last year his whopper weighed in at 497 kilograms. On Saturday he eclipsed that with a monster of 616kg. He's still 105kg short of the New Zealand record, 721kg set on April 2 in Whangerei.
But it is only his second year of competition and Mr McKay believes his pumpkin-growing powers are still developing. He has got the next generation on the job too, with 11-year-old daughter Anika taking out the children's first prize with another giant that weighed in at 384kg. A third pumpkin on the family plot was going extremely well too, until it "blew up" after reaching 270kg in 30 days, Mr McKay said.
His secret is a blend of tonnes of horse manure, mixed with fish and seaweed, with expert advice provided by Tom Harris of Biological Solutions in Richmond, who, as an adviser Mr McKay said was "world class". This year he added "a bit more horse poo and a bit more fish" to achieve the extraordinary growth. "I'm starting to figure out what I'm doing," he said.
The expanding giants have become a drawcard for visitors to the family's property, with the biggest pumpkin putting on 500kg between day 20 and day 80 of its growth, enough to easily see the difference each day.
The New Zealand record is in his sights and he is not ruling out the world title, sitting at 825kg and held by a Canadian couple. "I've only even known about this for 18 months – with the amount I've advanced, it gets you thinking," Mr Mckay said.
He will be saving the seed from the winner, now on display at Mitre 10 Mega, and feeding the flesh to his cows. "They love it."
Competition organiser Martyn Barlow said 60 pumpkin growers registered for the contest but on the day only 30 specimens were produced, showing the difficulty of nurturing the monsters to an impressive maturity.
Mitre 10 Mega provided a truck with a crane to lift the entries at the weigh-in and Mr McKay's arrived on a trailer supported by a mattress and blankets, with lifting strops already in place.
The competition, in its seventh year, raised $844 for the Nelson Rescue Helicopter and Mr Barlow said the intention was to keep it going, with New Zealand and world records quite possible as pumpkin-growing expertise improved.
"We're in the big-time," he said.
The average weight on Saturday was a more modest 81.7kg – enough to make a regular home gardener swell with pride but not in the race at Mapua.