Thieves harvest seeds from giant pumpkin at San Francisco Ferry Building

Oh, my gourd! A San Francisco restaurant owner says thieves ripped into a massive pumpkin at his eatery and pilfered its valuable seeds.

The seedy robbers cut a hole in the 1,400-hundred pound squash at the MarketBar in the Ferry Building, said Doug Biederbeck, the restaurant’s owner. Employees discovered the hole, carved into the back of the pumpkin, when they came to work on Sunday.

Biederbeck says the theft was a professional job. He's calling the heist “industrial espionage.”

“Somebody rather carefully carved a small hole, pulled out the plug, and reached in and scooped out the innards,” he said.

The pumpkin was grown by Napa farmer Leonardo Urena, who recently won the Half Moon Bay World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off with a 1,704-pounder, a state record.

Click the picture for a slideshow. Urena is pictured with his prize-winning pumpkin at the end of the gallery.

Urena said the 1,400-pound pumpkin contained “maybe 500 or 600 seeds.” Only four of the seeds were recovered, Biederbeck said.

“I feel real angry about what happened,” Urena said Wednesday. “Whoever took them, they don’t know what they have in their hands.”

According to a report last month in The New York Times, a single seed from the world’s heaviest pumpkin — an 1,810-pounder grown by Wisconsin general contractor Chris Stevens — sold for $1,600.

But Urena said it will be tough for the crooks to sell the seeds. Growers typically trade seeds in order to crossbreed them, he said. He hoped the stolen seeds could have helped him shatter future pumpkin weigh-off records.

Urena said he also donates some seeds to charity.

“I have to tell everyone that I would have donated those seeds to, ‘Sorry I lost them all,’” Urena said.

Urena said he’d be happy just to have half of the seeds returned.

“It’s very expensive just in terms of water and fertilizer and compost,” said Tim Beeman, spokesman for the Half Moon Bay pumpkin festival. “These guys are mad scientists. They’re in the pumpkin patch every day from May through the beginning of October.”

The restaurant owner said he will be reviewing the Ferry Building’s video surveillance cameras.

MarketBar was loaned the pumpkin from Hudson Ranch in Napa, where Urena works. The pumpkin sits in front of the restaurant, roped off from the public. Biederbeck described Urena as a grower with “magic hands” and said the 1,400-pound pumpkin has been a hit among customers.
maldax@sfexaminer.com

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