This 49-year-old farmer and hunter from the municipality of Valtierra, in Navarra, is known on social networks for his impressive pumpkins. It is through his cell phone that he shows all his followers the impressive specimens weighing more than 1,000 kilograms that he obtains every year. Something that, in addition, has allowed him to win numerous awards.
His name is Ruben Mendi, although he is better known as ‘The King of Pumpkins’. “When I started with the tourist business, in 2010, we had a pumpkin contest. A 60-kilo pumpkin won. I was encouraged to the following year, I started to cultivate my garden and we were taking a liking to the theme of giant pumpkins, “the farmer has detailed.
Five times champion of Spain for giant pumpkins
Since then, he has been “13 years growing pumpkins and every year I learn more. I have been the first in Spain for five years, I have achieved three Spanish records, the one I have now is from the year 2020, which is 1,157 kilos, the largest that has ever been grown in the country”.
“In 2022 I pulled out another one of 1,142 kilos that was among the 10 largest in the world of all time”. As for the trick to growing pumpkins of such dimensions, Rubén confessed that “first, you have to like gardening and you have to dedicate a lot of time to it”.
To this he added that “you have to get a seed with good, special genetics, of the kind we grow, which is one of the best in the world, prepare the soil very well with some organic matter, well worked and very hollow so that the roots enter well and you have to do some soil analysis to see what nutrients are missing”.
After this, the farmer said that it is necessary to “put a lot of wind protection, start to cultivate and take good care of them. Also “you have to do some pruning, bury all the knots of the leaves and when you pollinate it you have to place it very well. You must leave room for it to grow,” he explains.
How a giant pumpkin grows
“In mid-April or early May, which is about a month and a half of plant growth, is when the pumpkin is pollinated. Then, the pumpkin grows from 90 days to 120. You have to take care of it, control that diseases do not enter, do not overwatering so that there is no rot and enjoy how they grow. It’s incredible,” he said.
Likewise, Rubén wanted to clarify that “the first year you grow a pumpkin, you might get 100 kilos or 150 kilos because you don’t have the experience, but if you get good information, in the end, you get it”, he explains.
All my life as a hunter
As he told the Jara y Sedal team, his relationship with hunting began when he went hunting with his father. “At the age of 14 I got my permit for minors and at 18 I got my gun license and hunting permit for adults. I’ve hunted all my life for small game and big game,” he says.
“In 2000, I was working in a factory and I took my vacations to go to Madrid and take the hunting guard courses organized by the Association of Rural Landowners for Hunting Management and Environmental Conservation (APROCA),” he recalls. “I got my degree and, at the end of that year, I started working as a game warden”.
In spite of having decided to change his profession, Rubén has shown his passion for hunting: “Although I stopped working as a gamekeeper, I still hunt,” he says. However, he pointed out that his first priority is his vegetable garden: “Until I finish growing my pumpkins, I don’t go out at all. Then I go hunting as much as I can.