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All About Big Max Pumpkins: Growing The Big Ones!

Like the name suggests, “˜Big Max’ pumpkins can grow to enormous sizes that can wow your neighbors, family members, and contest judges. These big boys can weigh up to 200 pounds and measure an insane 70 inches all the way around. 

Whether your goal is to win a prize at your local pumpkin growing contest, or to simply have a delicious (and enormous) pumpkin to turn into pies, breads, and other delectable fall desserts, we suggest going out and purchasing some Big Max pumpkin seeds.

Read on to learn more about these massive pumpkins, including what they look like, how they’re grown, and what types of recipes you can use them for.

Where Did Big Max Pumpkins Come From?

Big Max (also known as “˜Big Mac’) pumpkins are known as a hybrid and are not actually a part of the pumpkin-family, but rather a part of the squash family. 

First developed by an Ontario farmer named William Warnock in the late 1800s, Big Max pumpkins were created for the sole purpose of growing to massive sizes and winning pumpkin growing contests. 

Warnock’s first record-breaking Big Max pumpkin — which weighed an incredible 400 pounds! — was grown in 1893 and shocked the world at the time due to its massive size. In fact, this pumpkin was so impressive that Warnock was invited to showcase it at the Paris World Fair. 

Before the Atlantic giant was created (which can grow up to 2,000 pounds), Warnock’s Big Max pumpkin held the record for the biggest pumpkin ever grown.

What Do Big Max Pumpkins Look Like?

As previously mentioned, Big Max pumpkins can grow to incredible sizes (ranging in weight from 50 to 200 pounds). Appearance-wise, these pumpkins tend to be round with a slumped or flattened shape and round stem. 

Color-wise, Big Max pumpkins are usually bright orange or red-orange when harvested. The rind of these pumpkins is rough, ribbed and thick; sometimes growing up to nearly 4 inches. 

Inside, Big Max pumpkins have a yellowish flesh which encases a big central cavity that has stringy pulp and a variety of off-white colored pumpkin seeds. Generally, Big Max pumpkins are seen as a mild or semi-sweet flavored pumpkin when used in dishes.

What Type of Dishes Can You Use Big Max Pumpkins For?

Even though they aren’t typically used in cooking (mostly just pumpkin growing competitions) Big Max pumpkins are perfect for a variety of fall dishes, given their semi-sweet flavor and large portions.

Due to the thick rind, Big Max pumpkins can be stored for several months. Just be sure to store them in a cool and dry place. These pumpkins are ideal in traditional fall desserts such as pumpkin pies or in soups and casseroles. You can also can them or freeze them to extend their longevity even more.

Big Max Puree

Big Max Pumpkin Puree

Big Max works best as a pumpkin puree, which is why they’re perfect for traditional pumpkin pie. Here’s how you can puree your Big Max pumpkin to prepare it for your delicious pie:

  1. Crack off the stem of your pumpkin and cut it in half (this can be difficult with Big Max pumpkins that are over 70 pounds. In other words, if your Big Max is huge, you should probably use another type of pumpkin to puree)
  1. Using a scooper tool, remove all of the guts (or pulp) and seeds
  1. Place both halves of your pumpkin on a greased baking sheet (face down) 
  1. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour (depending on the size) at 350 degrees fahrenheit
  1. Once cooled, use a spoon to scoop out the flesh and place it into a bowl
  1. Proceed to puree the flesh like you would with any fruit/vegetable, using either an electric blender or hand blender

How to Grow Big Max Pumpkins

Just like other types of pumpkins (and all crops for that matter), Big Max pumpkins will not survive hard frosts, and are only grown in the summer months, when temperatures are 70-80 degrees. 

If you’re in a region that doesn’t have 120 days — which is how long these pumpkins take to harvest — of frost-free weather, then you can start growing your Big Max pumpkins indoors before the season begins. 

If you choose this route, ensure you use either HID or fluorescent lamps. Natural sunlight is preferred though, especially if you want your Big Max pumpkins to grow as large as possible.

Seed Prep & Sowing

Big Max pumpkin seeds should be planted ½ inch to 1 inch deep in warm and rich soil — such as loam — with a pH between 5.5 to 6.6 and a temperature of at least 70 degrees. 

Germination typically takes 7 to 10 days, during which time, you’ll need to provide high levels of nutrients. You can use a fertilizer that is phosphorus-rich. This will help your pumpkins grow healthy. You can also use a foliar spray. 

Growing

Once seedlings are 1 to 2 inches high, you should thin them to 2 to 3 per group. Be sure to keep any weeds controlled for the duration of the growing season, as they can steal the nutrients and water from your pumpkins. 

Your plants should be watered on a regular basis and require about 1 to 2 inches rain per week. If you’re going through a dry spell in terms of precipitation, then be sure to increase the amount of times you water your plants to make up for it.

Water should be delivered to your plants in a low pressure trickle or drip system. The goal is to keep your soil moist but not overly saturated to avoid disease and other complications. Be careful not to step on the vines as they sprout, as they can be quite fragile.

For massive results, you should only grow one pumpkin per plant. To keep the sprawling vines of the Big Max pumpkin safe, you should border them with pole beans, sunflowers, corn or other trellised vegetables. 

Big Max Pumpkins next to regular pumpkins

Harvest Time!

Once the rind of the pumpkin is a deep orange color and firm to the touch, they are ready to be harvested. We recommend leaving the pumpkin on the vine as long as possible for maximum nourishment and growth. However, be sure to harvest before any hard frosts appear in the forecast. 

Using pruning shears, carefully cut the pumpkins from the vine and leave approximately 3 inches of the stem so the pumpkin can continue to grow and to prevent decay. Your pumpkins should also be left to cure in the sun for 7 days to help harden the rind. 

As mentioned previously, for optimal shelf-life, store your Big Max pumpkins in a cool and dry place such as your pantry.

Susie

Saturday 7th of August 2021

I am new, so new that I planted my big max in a raised bed and all the seeds took off! can I add cages to help the vines go to ground? or do I removed the middle plants and replant in a low to ground container?

Joni Noble

Tuesday 3rd of August 2021

Quick historical clarification...You stated Warnock was asked to display his 400# pumpkin at the Paris World's Fair in 1893. The 1893 World's Fair, also known as the Columbian Exposition, was held in Chicago...not Paris. There were, however, five World Fairs in Paris during the nineteenth century: in 1855, 1867, 1878, 1889 and 1900.

Cindy H Rhodes

Monday 19th of July 2021

My Big Max pumpkins are looking like large squash after the bloom. Is that normal?

Grace

Saturday 24th of July 2021

Hi Cindy, Big Max pumpkins do tend to be mostly round but with a slumped shape that might appear similar to a butternut squash early on. If you'd rather the pumpkins were perfectly round, try to make sure the pumpkins are on a flat surface and not right next to another pumpkin which might hinder their growth. Also make sure the vine near the pumpkin isn't pulled tight which could cause stress on the fruit as it grows larger. And finally, even if the pumpkin isn't perfectly round, as long as it is getting enough sunlight, water, and nutrients it should still grow just fine! Hope that helps!

Eileen

Friday 16th of July 2021

My Big Max pumpkins have started out a yellow color. Is that normal ?

Grace

Saturday 24th of July 2021

Hi Eileen, Big Max pumpkins are naturally yellowish-orange in color. They're probably normal, but if you're concerned they aren't getting enough color make sure the pumpkins are getting enough sun to turn orange. Happy pumpkin growing!

Eileen Boldreghini

Tuesday 6th of July 2021

Thank you for all of the information in growing pumpkins. I am new at growing pumpkins and have lots of mistakes and I am on a fixed income and a tight budget . This information helps me to not waste money and helps me take the best care of my pumpkins .