Morristown recipe for a 400-pound pumpkin: Add water. Lots of it.

Mark Tobler and Jim McCready with 400-pound pumpkin at second annual Morristown Pumpkin Illumination, a presentation of the Arts Council of the Morris Area and the Mayo Performing Arts Center. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Mark Tobler and Jim McCready with 400-pound pumpkin at second annual Morristown Pumpkin Illumination, a presentation of the Arts Council of the Morris Area and the Mayo Performing Arts Center. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Like, 50 gallons a day.

Then add copious amounts of sunlight. And nutrients. And condensed milk. And Grandma’s Molasses.

Oh, and make sure you start with a good seed.

The granddaddy of the 400-pounder on display Tuesday at Morristown’s second annual Pumpkin Illumination was an 1,100-pound monster that was the 2007 champion, said Mark Tobler, a part-time farmer/ chemical engineer who grew the Morristown gourd at the Early Street Community Garden with help from his wife, Marianne,  their daughter, Alexandra, 14, and other volunteers.

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If conditions are right, a pumpkin can grow 30- to 50 pounds a day.  Each pumpkin has a single season in the sun.

“That’s the allure,” said Mark, who learned from other pumpkin growers at a conference in Cooperstown, NY. “You have one season to try to do this.”

It took eight people to lug his pumpkin to the Vail Mansion on Tuesday. The pumpkin had chilled out for the last few weeks in a meat locker at the Acme supermarket in Morris Plains; Mark had to harvest it prematurely from the Early Street garden after Tropical Storm Irene stripped its leaves and caused the vine to rot.

If not for Irene, the pumpkin might have reached 600 pounds, Mark said.

Jim McCready of Morristown carved its spooky face. The pumpkin’s innards could yield about 15 pies, by Mark’s estimate. He said it was a great teaching tool for kids at the garden.

“The leaves are like solar panels, they are photosynthesis cells,” Mark explained.

He aims to grow an even bigger pumpkin for next year’s illumination, an event cooked up by Kadie Dempsey of the Arts Council of the Morris Area.  But a new world record?  That’s going to take an OCEAN of water.

This year’s champ, from Canada, tipped the scales at 1,818 pounds, Mark said.

SEE CHRISTIAN SCHULLER’S VIDEO ABOUT MORRISTOWN’S GREAT PUMPKIN

 READ MORE ABOUT TROPICAL STORM IRENE

Mark Tobler and Jim McCready with 400-pound pumpkin at second annual Morristown Pumpkin Illumination, a presentation of the Arts Council of the Morris Area and the Mayo Performing Arts Center. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Mark Tobler and Jim McCready with 400-pound pumpkin at second annual Morristown Pumpkin Illumination, a presentation of the Arts Council of the Morris Area and the Mayo Performing Arts Center. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

 

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