Gardening is a buzz – as we well know! If further proof were needed, just ask the millions around the world who every day escape into their vegetable patches and rose beds, to tend to the delicate needs of their personal flora. However, just like any pursuit, gardening has its competitive side. For these hardcore growers, gardening isn't just about tempting some tasty potatoes out of the ground. Instead, they are locked in a desperate race to produce the largest vegetables the world has ever seen. When it comes to the world's biggest melons you can forget about cantaloupes – ripe, juicy watermelons are king. But for these people a watermelon is not a watermelon unless it weighs at least 100lbs – and that’s a small one. Welcome to the world of giant melons, where size definitely does matter. We can think of plenty of individuals who'd like to own or get their hands on a couple of these!
7. 2008 Maryland Watermelon, 98lb
As they say, the lady loves the melons! At 98lb, this melon, grown in Manchester, Maryland, looks huge – it's as big as a sheep! However, you ain't seen nothing yet; this is barely a sprat when it comes to real titan melons.
While you're salivating over those thoughts, consider the fact that, consisting of 92% water and 6% sugar, watermelon is actually a delicious low calorie snack. When it comes in giant size there's simply all the more to go around! Watermelon is a great source of Vitamin C, but take heed, many of the nutrients in watermelons are actually locked up in the white inner rind – so don't throw away your melon until you're done with it! The fruit's vitamin content can provide protection from cancer, while the high potassium levels can help to prevent cramps. Watermelon is great on its own, in a salad or as an ingredient in your cocktails – non alcoholic or otherwise! In China they're even stir fried.
6. 2006 Largest Watermelon, Carolina State Fair, 150lb
Image: Angela de Março
Hands off the melons – at a whopping 150lb this pert beauty was at the front of the line to win the prize for biggest watermelon at the North Carolina state fair, 2006. Enough to make anybody proud!
Using closely guarded techniques and ‘pure breed’ seeds, descended from only the most gargantuan of watermelons, growers are able to cultivate melons weighing well over 200lbs – that’s more than your average man. During the summer months their proud owners transport and display them all over the country at fairs and vegetable exhibitions, competing against fellow melon-lovers at events such as the Watermelon Olympics – a celebration of all things melon.
5. 1930 World Record Watermelon, 1603/4lb
Image: Giant Watermelons
Indeed, by as early the 1920s the 150lb North Carolina melon had been bettered – and in 1930 alone the world record was broken three times. The first contender was one AB Turner, pictured above, before he lost the record to OD Middlebrooks's entry, which weighed in at 4lb heavier than Turner's. Nevertheless, you can see from Mr Turner's face that he's more than happy to be spending time with his baby.
AB Turner isn't the only record breaker to hail from the little town of Hope, Arkansas – this is one town that hoped for watermelon. Only twice since 1930 has the record left Hope’s community of melon growers, and the town folk are so attached to their beloved giant melons that they consider out-of-town challenger vegetables to be plain wrong.
4. 1935 World Record Watermelon, 195lb
Image: Ellen Ficklen, www.watermelontimes.com
While 1930 might have been a turbulent year for melons, 1935 set in a period of calm, when Arnold, Melvin and OD Middlebrooks set a world record that would last for 44 years. Naturally they were Hope locals, living in Patmos, 9 miles south of the town, and one can imagine they knew exactly what to do with their melon.
Image: Giant Watermelons
Warm sunshine is the perfect condition for cultivating giant melons, and the growers’ cultivar of choice is the Carolina Cross, which can range in size from a mere 15lbs to well over 200lbs. They are freely available, so why not give it a go yourself and pray for the right meteorological conditions? You can buy champion seeds direct from Hope's growers, and with a heritage like that you could have your own bumper melons. Alternatively, you could make your way to Hope's melon festival and dig in, or you could set about procuring some of the prize contenders which failed to make the grade. Scrumptious!
3. 1979 World Record Watermelon, 200lb
When it comes to giant melons, there’s one family that reigns supreme: the Bright family of Hope, Arkansas. Above are Lloyd Bright's two sons posing on the then world record breaking 200lb melon, which Lloyd grew with his father, Jake, breaking the 44-year record set in 1935.
It’s not just the growing of humongous watermelons that pleases the people of Hope; in fact, the summer months are filled with melon festivals at which adoring crowds are served fresh, tasty melon, judge ‘Watermelon Queen’ pageants, and enter the ‘Watermelon Idol’ talent show. Famous sons of the watermelon capital include both President Bill Clinton and Governor Mike Huckabee.
2. 1985 World Record Watermelon, 260lb
Yes, it's those Brights again. They have a habit of breaking their own records. In 1985, Jason L Bright broke the record set by his father and grandfather with an amazing 260lb melon monster. In the decades since then, the melons haven't got much bigger!
The summer of 2005 brought a severe drought to many parts of the US, causing farmers much grief, but one notable exception was the melon farmers – as we'll see. The drought enabled them to control the moisture delivered to their melons much more closely, allowing for a bumper crop of massive melons. Easy, boys!
1. 2005 World Record Watermelon, 268.8lb
Recognise these two? On Saturday, September 3rd, 2005, a small crowd gathered to watch a melon grown by Lloyd Bright being weighed at Hope Farm Store (see below). After an almighty effort it was heaved onto the scales and nervous onlookers held their breath as the weigh-in began.
Minutes later, Lloyd’s vegetable behemoth was declared to be an incredible 268.8lbs – over 6lbs more than the previous record of 262lbs, held by a Tennessee man. Just a few months later, The Guinness Book of Records certified the success: this was, officially, the largest melon the Earth had ever seen – once again grown by the Bright family, a line who are amply proud of their wondrous melons!
What could be more delicious on a hot summer day than a fresh, juicy watermelon? Well, you might think twice before attempting to eat an entire giant watermelon… after all, these melons aren’t made for eating; they’re made for showing. And when it comes to that, big really is best.