Weighing in at 215 pounds, a bushel gourd grown by Keys High School student Tucker Friend recently beat the state record at the Oklahoma Giant Pumpkin Growers Weigh-off event.
With a passion for horticulture, Friend spent much of this year tending to his giant pumpkin while conducting some gourd experiments on the side. He was hoping to introduce a pumpkin that reached to be over 450 pounds to the annual contest. However, after seeing his massive fruit dilapidate and crack in his garden, Friend realized the bushel gourd he grew could break the state’s record.
“I used to just grow pumpkins, but I decided to do the bushel gourds because it gave me something else to do,” Friend said. “I started doing them and found out they were a little easier to grow than pumpkins.”
After 63 days, Friend had the state’s largest bushel gourd by nearly 100 pounds, and believes it to be the second-largest gourd in the world. He credits a special seed he uses to produce the giant fruit, and now hopes to gather some of its seeds to sell or use for another sizable harvest.
“The seeds can be expensive,” he said. “You could be paying anywhere from $5 all the way up to $200 a seed. I’ve got all kinds of people that will buy seeds off me for like $5 a seed.”
Aside from gourds and pumpkins, the green thumb has a knack for growing a variety of produce. His mother, Heidi Wilder, thinks he got his aptitude for growing things from his grandfather, and said Tucker has long had an interest in gardening.
“He’s been interesting in horticulture since he was probably 11-years old,” she said. “He wanted a cell phone and I figured he wanted to talk to his friends or play games, and the first thing he did was look up giant pumpkins and how to grow them.”
Friend decided to attend Keys High School because of the horticulture program. He’s also created his own YouTube page, Growing Giants with Tucker, to show off his progress and give updates.
“I love to garden,” he said. “I’ve got at least a half-acre garden with okra, cucumbers, and jack-o-lanterns. This year, I harvested probably 50 or 60 jack-o-lanterns. I’ve got giant pumpkins, giant bushel gourds, peppers, tomatoes – a little bit of everything.”
As for the record-breaking gourd, Friend’s grandmother is hoping to dry it out and turn it into a basket after he removes the seeds. He’s not resting on his achievement, though. The gardner actually has another gourd that has reached at least 150 pounds so far, as it grows about four inches a day.
“This year, I’m going to really try at it and try to grow a world record,” he said.