Twice in a row, Smith broke the Guinness World Record for most tomatoes grown on a single stalk. It originally broke the previous record of 488 tomatoes – which had been in place for more than 10 years – after growing 839 cherry tomatoes on a stalk last September.
Then, on March 18, Guinness World Records said Smith actually had broke his own world recordgrowing 1,269 tomatoes on a single separate stalk.
He was there to earn it: “It was a very deliberate attempt to go for a Guinness World Record,” said Smith, who works full-time as a product manager and lives north of London in Hertfordshire , in England.
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Smith has long had a green thumb and at one point supplied fresh vegetables from his garden to local pubs and restaurants.
“I’ve always been a gardener,” he says.
In 2014 he decided to take his hobby to a new level. He was particularly interested in ginormous products, and pumpkins became his starting point.
Growing huge vegetables offered a tantalizing opportunity to “push your horticultural knowledge to do something a little different,” Smith said. “I love growing vegetables for home, but if you’re trying to grow for a competition, you’ll learn a lot more about how to grow them successfully with an exercise like this.”
As he began to explore the world of massive vegetables and fruits, Smith soon realized his interest wasn’t as unusual as he thought. In the United States, of course, spectacular displays and super big product contest have been commonplace at state fairs for decades. In other places around the world, he learned, people proudly grow colossal crops, garnering praise for their enormous pumpkins, potatoes and tomatoes.
Recently, a New Zealand couple stole the show for growing what they believed to be the world’s largest potato, only to be told by Guinness World Records that their mammoth mass wasn’t a potato at all. .
They thought they had dug up the biggest potato in the world. It wasn’t a potato.
Far beyond the prospect of winning awards and accolades, what intrigued Smith most, he said, was the intense learning process and strong sense of camaraderie among fellow giant vegetable growers. . Although competitive in nature, the community is collaborative.
“Competitive vegetable farming is an active community in terms of knowledge sharing,” Smith said.
When he switched from pumpkins to tomatoes in 2017, he contacted Pierre Glazebrook – a veteran market gardener who then held the UK record for the country’s largest tomato – and Glazebrook kindly sent some seeds to Smith.
In 2020, after growing a nearly seven-pound tomato, “I kept breaking Peter’s record and then sent him my UK record seeds,” Smith said.
Around the same time, his 6-year-old son, Stellan, told his father that he wanted him grow a giant sunflowerwhich has become a pandemic project for the family.
“Little kids want things that grow fast or things that grow tall,” said Smith, who swapped some of his giant tomato seeds with a giant American sunflower grower named John Butler, who sent him sunflower seeds. . “He said he had better grow a sunflower as big as the house.”
Following the Dizzying Sunflower’s success, “I was looking for other horticultural challenges,” Smith said. “I decided to try the most tomatoes on a farm.”
In the gardening world, a truss is simply a stalk that holds tomatoes. Typically, Smith said, a stalk bears between 12 and 30 cherry tomatoes, and during very heavy growing seasons, maybe 50. He was determined to multiply that number at least by 10.
For Smith, the process of growing oversized products is scientific. To prepare for his tomato-growing operation, he spent countless hours reading research papers, sending soil samples to be tested in labs, trying out various seed varieties, and studying the many types of tomatoes.
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Extreme gardening work, he said, is “both natural and learned. There are no easy manuals.
“It all starts with variety selection,” Smith explained, adding that choosing the right type of tomato is the “nature” part of the process. “The second step is the environment. You can manipulate the temperature of things like air and ground. You use all that little knowledge just to grow, improve, and multiply.
Smith’s extensive research and analytical approach paid off last fall, when he discovered a farm in his greenhouse with 839 perfectly plump cherry tomatoes hanging from it. A few weeks later, he found one that had 1,269 — allowing him to break the world record, twice.
Not only did Smith surpass his own initial record of 430 fruits, but his unprecedented number of tomatoes was 10 times greater than the initial record of 121, set in 1997.
Although Smith is tickled by the title, he already has a new mission in mind. He hopes to win the record of “most tomatoes on one plant.” He also intends to attempt to grow the heaviest potatoes and eggplants in the world.
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“We will have another crack at some records later this year. Fingers crossed,” he said.
Although he enjoys competing and winning, he tries to keep perspective on the fantastic food he grows.
“It’s just a bit of fun,” he said.
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