The growing season is relatively short here in New England. Perhaps that's one of the reasons why we especially savor our local produce. The apples that are now being harvested, for example, are homegrown treasures. Biting into a freshly picked McIntosh, Cortland, Macoun, or another variety, with its complex and satisfying medley of tartness, crispness, and sweetness, is a fall tradition that resonates with us Bostonians.

The prized fruit will be featured at the annual AppleFest at Wachusett Mountain. Along with opportunities to sample all kinds of apples (of course), there will be an apple pie contest, crafts, entertainment, pony and hayrides, a Cider House 5K road race, a lumberjack show, and skyrides to the mountain's summit to enjoy leaf peeping in all its colorful glory.

Oh, and one more thing: a giant pumpkin weigh-off. Yup, you read that correctly. Farmers will be displaying their ginormous gourds at the event in hopes of nabbing prize money as well as earning bragging rights.

This obsession with growing insanely over-sized squashes is a relatively recent phenomenon. Are farmers out of their gourds? Perhaps it has something to do with the area's contracted growing season and their desire to not just make the most of it, but to defy all logic.

The granddaddy of giant pumpkin events is at the Topsfield Fair. The All New England Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off, which began in 1984, now routinely displays pumpkins that weigh over 1000 lbs. and are each bigger than most average patches. The record was smashed last year when a 2009 lb. orange goliath broke the one-ton barrier. That's a whole lotta pumpkin.

AppleFest at Wachusett Mountain
October 19 and 20, 2013, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Princeton, MA

Topsfield Fair
October 4 to 14, 2013
Topsfield, MA

Photo: Wachusett Mountain