Gourd grower achieves another gargantuan goal

Gourd grower achieves another gargantuan goal

Scituate resident Joe Jutras said his practice of growing gargantuan food is “like a labor of love.” He has previously set world records for heaviest pumpkin and longest gourd.

SCITUATE – Scituate resident Joe Jutras wasn’t sure if he would ever be able to grow a squash big enough to set a world record, but after 10 years of practice, he reached his goal.

Jutras stunned the crowd at the 2017 Southern New England Giant Pumpkin Growers Association at Frerichs Farm in Warren last Saturday, Oct. 7, when he hauled in a green squash weighing in at 2,118 pounds, a new world record for heaviest squash.

“I’m no longer the bridesmaid, I’m the bride,” Jutras said.

The former cabinet maker is no stranger to this sort of accomplishment.

In 2006 he broke the record for longest gourd, with a 126.5-inch gourd, and in 2007 he broke the record for largest pumpkin, with a weight of 1,689 pounds.

Though both previous records have since been surpassed, Jutras is the only grower so far to break world records in the three most competitive categories.

That kind of accomplishment takes a lot of work.

“We’re not just putting these in the ground,” Jutras said. “You’ve got to plan this. There’s a lot that goes into it.”

The 62-year-old said preparation for next year’s competition season, which runs from around Labor Day through October 2018, begins almost immediately. And in order to grow bigger and better, growers often combine seeds from that year’s large harvest.

“These are all hybrids,” Jutras explains. His own squash, for example, is actually half pumpkin.

But the planning pays off, in more ways than one.

“If you go away for two or three days, you can come back and it’s a totally different fruit,” Jutras said. He said he’s seen his own pumpkin and squash grow hundreds of pounds in that time span.

“It’s like a labor of love,” Jutras said.

Though he has always loved gardening, Jutras says he didn’t start growing gargantuan food until he met the late John Castellucci, who he refers to as “the godfather of pumpkin growing in Rhode Island.”

Jutras also relies on the guidance of his fellow competitive growers in the Southern New England Giant Pumpkin Growers Association and the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth.

“We help each other out,” he said. “Everyone wants to see everyone do well, you just feel good for everyone’s personal best.”

He admits that he might have one leg up above competitors, at least when it comes to weather.

The ideal day time temperature for growing squash and pumpkin is between 80 and 85 degrees and the ideal evening temperature is between 60 and 65 degrees

“And Rhode Island has this weather pretty much from July through September,” he said. “Rhode Island, I think, has the best zone of anywhere in the world probably.”