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Clinton man grows one of the state’s largest 2011 pumpkins

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Catherine W. Idzerda
October 16, 2011
— OK, 16 ounces to a pound, so 876.5 pounds is 14,024 ounces. Each pie calls for 15 ounces of pumpkin, so 14,024 divided by 15 is 934.93 pies. Add 102 gallons of sweetened condensed milk and … well, never mind.

It’s unlikely that John Karstetter will allow anybody to make pie out of his 876.5-pound pumpkin.


First, because it would call for about 312 tablespoons of cinnamon, and second, because Karstetter’s pumpkin took fourth place at the state’s pumpkin weigh-off that was held Sept. 24.


The first place winner, Joe Menting of Seymour, grew a pumpkin that weighed 1,258.5 pounds. The world record, which is held by Chris Stevens of New Richmond, is 1,810.5 pounds.


Still, Karstetter has plenty of reasons to be pleased.


“This is only my second year in competition,” Karstetter said.


Last year, he grew a 294-pound pumpkin—you can see a photo of it in the Gazette’s on-line, community-submitted photo gallery under “Fall Fun, 2010.”


A friend, who also grows large pumpkins, encouraged Karstetter to give it a try.


He found that giant pumpkin growers were a friendly bunch, always willing to lend a hand or offer advice.


There’s even a Wisconsin Giant Pumpkin Growers association that offers growing advice and encourages participation in the contests that are held throughout the Midwest.


Like most giant pumpkin growers, Karstetter grew “Atlantic Giants,” the variety that yields winners.


Strains of those seeds from winning pumpkins are often used. For example, Karstetter used 844 Kopp for seeds and 975 Kopp as the male pollinator. Kopp is the name of the grower, and the number represents the size, in pounds, of the pumpkins grown from that seed.


Karstetter starts his pumpkins seeds under a heat lamp at the end of April or beginning of May and transplants them after all danger of frost has passed.


Pumpkins are grown in a plot that’s about 30-feet by 30-feet. Almost as soon as the fruit is established, Karstetter culls all but one or two of the best fruits.


He carefully tracks fungicide, pesticide and fertilizer use, being careful not to overdo it.


“You don’t want to give them too much juice or you risk a split, a blowout,” Karstetter said.


“A blowout” is a split pumpkin.


Giant pumpkins grow 15 to 20 pounds every day, and vines can grow as much as 2 feet in the same time period.


Last summer, Karstetter had two potential winners. One day, he watered his patch. That night, a huge rainstorm came through. The next day, a pumpkin weighing more than 600 pounds split open.


After Halloween, Karstetter will cut open his pumpkin, collect the seeds—which will now be known as Karstetter 876— and then pose his kids inside of it.


It’s probably for the best that he has no plans for pie.


After all, pumpkin pie needs topping and it’d be difficult to calculate how much whipped cream he’d need.


One dollop per slice, 8 slices per pie, 934 pies …



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