Pumpkins disappearing from porches on Halloween night is an annoyance, but not usually a noteworthy occurrence.
But in Jeff Pelletier’s case, the thieves almost certainly don’t know what they made off with.
The prize-winning Queensbury horticulturist’s field pumpkin, the second largest field pumpkin grown in B.C. in 2023, was a big hit with trick-or-treaters this year, but when he woke up the following morning, it was gone.
As seasonal ornaments, pumpkins aren’t built to last. But their seeds contain unique genetics sought by competitive growers like Pelletier, who sprouted the 70-pound field pumpkin from the seed of the largest ever field pumpkin grown in Austria. He named his muscular gourd Arnold after Austria’s most famous bodybuilder and movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger.
He was planning to harvest Arnold’s seeds and cross-pollinate them with one of his own gourdgantuan creations to produce an even greater pumpkin in 2024.
“That was one of the only fruits I brought back home with me [from the World Master Gardener competition] because I wanted its genetics,” he said.
Among competitive growers, champion seeds are about as valuable as some precious metals on a per-gram basis. While a single seed from a champion giant pumpkin might go for $750, the “street value” of the seeds from the Austrian field pumpkin would sell for about $25 for a package of three, Pelletier said.
“So, there’s a bit of value to them. But of course, you’re pulling out 500 seeds from a pumpkin,” Pelletier said. “[The pumpkin thieves] probably didn’t know and they probably got a nice sore back as a result of it because they weren’t the lightest pumpkins,” he added, breaking into laughter.
Pelletier walked the neighbourhood searching for evidence of Arnold, but had no luck. If the gourd were still intact, the seeds would be fine, but if it had been smashed open, the seeds would have rotted by now, Pelletier lamented.
Pelletier submitted the grand gourd as one of his entries in the annual World Master Gardener competition. He’ll learn in January how Arnold and his other giant veggies, which included a long gourd more than twice his height, ranked.
While the seeds and genes may be lost, there is a silver (or orange) lining to the story. Pelletier shared Arnold’s sad update on Facebook, and the winner of this year’s competition to grow the largest field pumpkin reached out and offered some of his seeds.
“It shows how generous people are in the sport,” he said.