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Look that there is vegetables in the Ribera de Navarra, but none like the one that Rubén Mendi cultivates in the town of Valtierra , at the gates of the Bardenas Reales . Its giant pumpkins are an ordain to nature. They are already world famous. Mendi has been crowned as national champion of cultivation of this vegetable of size XXL. Moreover , he has pulverized the record of Spain of all time with a pumpkin of 990.5 kilos . Right now, it is third in this peculiar annual ranking that governs the Great Pumpking Commomweath (GPD) with strict standards. "I have the Facebook and WhatsApp flooded," he says.

These days, the Navarrese is a very busy man. "You catch me in the garden, preparing the ground for next year," he says on the other side of the phone. This year he has grown four giant pumpkins and won the main championships in Spain and Portugal. All the victories know well, but none like the one he won last month at the Valtierra International Championship, where he swept the almost thousand kilos of Gloria , the name of the winning giant. "It has been a very hard year. They give a lot of work."

The fame and quality of the vegetables in the Ribera suggests that everything grows easily here. It's not like that. "The strength of the deer and the heats of summer make the weather very hard for a giant pumpkin." Mendi's secret is that he acclimates and pampers them relentlessly during the six months of cultivation . "In a normal garden, you put a seed of these and at most you get a pumpkin of 200 or 300 kilos. To reach 1,000 kilos you have to fight a lot ."

The pumpkin 'Gloria', winner in the fair of Valtierra.

Mendi's are from another league. They do not start to grow until one hundred days of being planted, but once they start ... It goes without saying that you measure them every day. "They usually gain about 180 or 200 kilos in the first month," he tells the farmer. " Gloria only reached 130 kilos, but already in the second month I achieved an average of 21 kilos a day. There was a period of 15 days that was growing 26 and 27 kilos a day, a lot. So we planted on the 60th day with 750 kilos . "

Too bad that a very hot July would come later. "The last 60 days I only got another 250 when I could have achieved up to 400 more if the thing had gone well. You have a lot of fun, but you finish the stressed crop. The last days there is tension. It can happen that a mouse bites or cracks somewhere ... You just want to get to the contest and weigh it. " That day the farmers play the work of half a year, but also a place in Guinness Records because the GPD is an entity certified by the famous Olimpo de plusmarcas.

Mendi started cultivating ten years ago . He estimates that in Spain there will be between 100 and 150 giant pumpkin growers, but worldwide this is a hobby shared by about 50,000 people . Two years ago, the Navarrese participated in the Stuttgart fair, one of the most important. "Imagine, 19 hours of traveling with the pumpkin in the truck ... I'm getting to know a lot of world." And to many people. It was a farmer from the Napa Valley (California) who gave Mendi the seeds of Glory . "I asked permission to call the pumpkin as his wife."

The season of official competitions of the GPD continues these days in California, where it is expected that very large pumpkins will come out and perhaps they will knock out the valtierrano from his current third world position. "But it is possible that the fourth or fifth farmer in the world ends up." The awards are given in the so-called Big Show , which this year is held in Las Vegas at the end of February. There he will be.

A recent contest of giant pumpkins from Winconsin, USA. SHUTTERSTOCK

Meanwhile, one of its giant pumpkins ( Gloria has already been grazing the wild cows of the area) is exposed in the Caves of Bardenas , the troglodyte complex of rural houses that Mendi manages in this area of ​​the Ribera. They are the perfect starting point to explore the Bardenas Reales desert and to take the family to the Senda Viva leisure park. In addition, guests receive giant pumpkin seeds as a gift, such as those asked by the farmer from all corners of the world through social networks.

"In life I have liked many things, but this is already more than a hobby, it is a passion," he acknowledges. Next year, yes, it's time to pause. "I'm just going to put a plant because I need a little rest. I'm going to research new products and fertilizers. And in 2021 I will try to go for the world record ."

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