Meadow Zelenitz-McCracken can certainly grow cabbage.

Each year, third-graders across the country grow oversized versions of the vegetable with the national Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program. This year more than 1.5 million kids in 48 states participated.

But none grew a cabbage quite like Zelenitz-McCracken. The third-grader at Bozeman Summit School managed a monster. Weighing in at 65 pounds, the cabbage is the largest ever grown through the program, according to spokeswoman Joan Casanova.

The giant cabbage also earned Zelenitz-McCracken “best in state” and a $1,000 scholarship toward education from Bonnie Plants.

According to Bonnie Plants, which first offered cabbages for sale in 1918, the variety used in the program is an over-sized cross and can yield vegetables up to 40 pounds. How Zelenitz-McCracken’s came to weigh 15 pounds more than that is unclear.

“It’s ridiculous!” Casanova exclaimed. “Everybody at Bonnie fell of their chairs (when they saw the picture).”

A copy was also sent around the country to all 75 of the company’s growing stations.

For the program, students are given a free 2-inch cabbage plant to take home. When it is time for harvest, the parents take a photo of the child with his or her plant and submit it to the teacher, who then chooses a best in class based on size and appearance.

From there, all entries are sent back to Bonnie Plants, where they are assigned a number and then, state by state, a winner is drawn for the scholarship.

It was the luck of the draw that the largest cabbage wound up as the scholarship-winner, Casanova said. She noted that the odds are a little better in Montana than in southern and midwestern states. Only 94 schools and 3,803 Montana kids participated this year, Casanova said.

To see the 2011 winners and learn more about the 2012 contest, visit www.bonnieplants.com

“It’s fun and free and has a lot of life lessons,” Casanova said of the program.

The Guinness World Record for largest cabbage went to a 125.9-pounder at the Alaska State Fair in 2009.

Rachel Hergett may be reached at rhergett@dailychronicle.com or 582-2603.

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