Who would have thought that a pumpkin grown on a field near Silverado Resort should end up the toast of New York City this Halloween?
We speak of Tim Mathison’s world-record pumpkin — a 2,032-pounder — that anchors the New York Botanical Garden’s Haunted Pumpkin Garden display this month.
Mathison’s sprawling mass of vegetable flesh is part of a fright tableau right out of “The Little Shop of Horrors.” Ensnared in vines, it slumps defenseless as a snarling T-Rex-like pumpkin head threatens to devour it.
No grower of giant pumpkins has ever had a year like Mathison’s.
Two weeks ago he set a state record with a 1,874-pound entry at the Elk Grove weigh-off, then bested it with a one-ton, world-record monster at the Giant Pumpkin Weight-Off hosted by Uesugi Farms in Morgan Hill.
While that champ was being flown to New York City, Mathison wrapped up his season at Half Moon Bay, winning second place with a 1,894-pounder.
The tally: three pumpkins weighing collectively 5,800 pounds, nearly $50,000 in prize money. Plus the five-day, all expenses-paid trip to New York for himself and his wife, Susie.
When he appeared on ABC’s New York-based TV show, “Live! with Kelly and Michael,” Mathison was hard-pressed to explain how so much good fortune could befall a humble Napa pumpkin grower whose day job is selling lumber for Adobe Lumber.
Was it the loving care — up to four hours a day — he bestowed on his pumpkin patch on Estee Avenue? The fish and seaweed sprays? The garlic solutions to ward off insects?
Was it the assistance of his handicapped adult daughter, Tara, who spent evenings with him in the patch? “She’s my moral support,” he said.
But maybe there’s no explanation, Mathison said Monday, following his return from New York. “You could say it was a fluke. I must have had a lot of luck.”
Other Napa growers were also fortunate this year, sweeping most of the top prizes at Northern California’s most prestigious giant pumpkin weigh-offs.
Just two miles from the Mathison house, Gary Miller of Napa grew the world’s second largest pumpkin, weighing just 15 pounds short of a ton, noted Susie Mathison.
Mathison spent 105 days tending his pumpkins — from pollination to harvest — on land where he formerly grew tomatoes and string beans and his sons raised hogs for 4-H. This was his sixth year of growing giants.
To give his young pumpkins a boost, he rigged up a tent and heated it with a space heater at night. Susie became suspicious when their PG&E bill jumped $200 a month. “Tim didn’t want to tell me he had a heater out in the pumpkin patch,” she said.
Those high utility bills turned out to be a good investment. “It made them grow enormous,” Tim Mathison said.
“He’s damn lucky,” Susie said.
Mathison said he ended the growing season “stressed out” from so much time before dawn and after dark in his patch. Prior to his string of spectacular weigh-ins, “I told my wife I’d take a year off. It’s a lot of work with a handicapped child,” he said.
But now that he’s set a world record and won $50,000 in prize money?
“After my success, we’re rethinking it now,” he said.