OH, my gourd, it’s enormous! Welcome to the annual pumpkin weighing contest at the George Inn in Chideock.
The pub garden looks like a Cinderella set – we're surrounded by maybe 30 pumpkins of all shapes and sizes, oranges contrasting brilliantly against a bright, almost Mediterranean, sky.
We’re with a pair of Portlanders, Dr and Mr Pond, who won the pumpkin contest two years ago with a whopper grown in their Wyke Regis allotment tipping the scales at 108 lbs. Last year, their crown was stolen, and now they’re determined to reclaim the title for 2010.
We spend the car journey in happy anticipation, bickering over whether pumpkins are a fruit or a vegetable. The competition organisers, the Chideock Cider Circle, have already collected the Ponds’ pumpkin. So far I’ve only seen photos of it – so my jaw drops when I meet their monster gourd in the flesh.
It is vast and flabby, sagging over at the sides like a fat man trying to heave himself out of bed. It is easily the biggest on display – but is it the heaviest? It’s a nervous wait to find out. We have a couple of pints as we wonder when the weigh-in will begin.
I notice a barrel set up by the cidermakers inviting a donation for each pint and quickly avail myself. (It’s so strong, it’s probably illegal to sell).
Bewhiskered cider makers roll each fruit out to the scales, where they are solemnly weighed and each result debated, then noted down on a clipboard.
A small crowd gathers as the tension mounts – then there’s a murmur. The Portlanders have done it. At 194 lbs, and almost too girt for two grown men to lift, theirs is the heaviest pumpkin since 2006, when a whopper grown by Robert Phillips nearly broke the scales at 238lbs.
Mr Pond is delighted, though – he was desperate to win. Dr Pond is slightly worried that she’s given away all her secrets under my casual questioning – how much manure did you use? How much water did you need?
The seeds of ambition have taken root. I’ll have to ask my mum if we can grow a monster pumpkin in her veg plot. Who knows, next year this could be us!