nilesite writes


New York, New York, USA
January 08
The Backpack Press
Pilgrim, writer, photographer, mom, singer - author of "A Marshmallow on the Bus: A Collection of Stories Written on the MTA."


Nilesite's Links
SEPTEMBER 21, 2013 10:34PM

Growing Pumpkins in the Bronx

Rate: 12 Flag


It’s funny the things you don’t pay attention to when you are on your way to the bus.  Most mornings, I’m on some kind of auto-pilot.  If you asked me how I got to the bus stop, I would probably stammer something about crossing the street, or stopping at the corner and looking both ways.  The details would typically escape me.  I keep my head down and just get there somehow.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed something.  In an empty tree well on one of the side streets in the neighborhood, I noticed weeds.  Weeds grow everywhere so noticing weeds is like noticing stop lights.  They’re there, so what, move along.  But these weeds were big and big weeds are not common, at least not around here.  Somebody usually comes along and cleans them out.

These big weeds became how I started my day.  I’d walk out the back door, swing by the weeds, see how they were doing, and move on down the street to catch my bus.  In just a short while, they were eye-high and I found myself looking forward to seeing them, to catching up with them. 

“How’re you doing, weeds?” 

“I’m eye-high, how’re you?”

I checked in with the porter who was taking out the trash bags one morning.  I asked her if there was something special about these particularly large weeds, if someone was going to clean up the little plot they were growing in, if she knew what kind of weeds they were.  I fully expected to find out they were about to be mown, if that’s the word for taking out the weeds and leaving the little square empty again.

“Those are Joe’s pumpkins.”  Well, that would explain the squash blossoms.

“Oh.  Have a nice day.”

“You too.”

The next morning, I ran into him.  Joe is the superintendent in this building.  Had he really planted pumpkins in a three by four foot empty tree well in the street? 

“These your pumpkins?”

In fact they were.  He planted them. 

He told me the tall red stalks in the middle were something the “Indian people” like for lunch.  Apparently, Indian people had been harvesting the stalky things and leaving the pumpkins alone.  It didn’t look like rhubarb so I was at a loss in my attempt to identify it.  He was fascinated that anyone would want them.  Keep in mind, they were growing in the street.

But alas, there weren’t any pumpkins behind those huge blossoms.  Joe explained that the pumpkins usually grow right behind the blossoms and this year, nothing.  Strong, beautiful blooms, but not one pumpkin.  He was clearly disappointed.


The next day, the tiny plot was empty.  The stalks, the blossoms, the weeds were all gone.  There were the usual bits and pieces of flotsam and jetsam, the stuff you see on the street.  In the place of squash blossoms and stalks, there was a simple, plain rectangle of dirt and debris.  You’d never know that his garden had been there.

This is just a footnote, a subset of what happens every day in a big city.  He had planted pumpkin seeds, he had looked after this tiny garden, some random stalks had appeared that became lunch for the Indian people, and in the end, there were no pumpkins and the whole exercise was cleared away. 

What makes this extraordinary is that while everyone knows a tree grows in Brooklyn, not too many people know that pumpkins could be growing in the Bronx.

Photos by me 09-21-2013

Author tags:

city, weeds, pumpkins, street, garden

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Well...... that sure looks better..... NOT!!

I've heard those blossoms are very good battered and fried.
They paved paradise... Sorry to hear this. BUT oh, so beautifully told!!
Nice try, Joe. I think to get a pumpkin a bee who had visited another pumpkin flower would have had to pollinate one of Joe's blossoms. I think the odds were against him. Love these city vignettes you do so well. R
Squash blossoms stuffed with feta or goat cheese, dipped in egg and rolled in Parmesan cheese then fried. Oh so delish! The heck with the pumpkins.

recipe stolen (compliments) from Just Thinking...
Pumpkinssssssssssssssssssssssssssss... are my fave thing in the world and I arrived here to late to plant them . But I do have a small eggplant that has appeared.. Does that count?
Those pumpkin vines. Had one that took over the side yard. Never produced a plant. But by G-d it tried hard! Love pocket gardens. Softens the concrete and brightens the streetscape.
It's time for the vines to be pulled, anyway. Hope there's another one next year.
This is very smart and clever in my humble opinoon.
Nice! What a surprise -- too bad no pumpkins, though. The very same kind (the leaves are the same anyway) are growing in my front yard as I type - the long vines have taken over, but the pumpkins themselves start growing then most fail....
I hope he tries again next year. I like the visits to your neighborhood.
Please let me apologize that I abandoned this post. I've been working on a play and leaving very little time to catch up with everyone!

sky - thank you! I agree with you completely. I loved the burst of yellow in those magnificent squash blossoms.

zanelle - I hesitate to add one more fried food to my repertoire! But it sure sounds interesting.

Brazen P - Not a parking lot just yet. I walked by this morning and it's started to grow back already! Thanks.

Gerald - Good call about that all important bee thing. I'm glad you like my tiny tales. I miss reading about your two oldsters ...

asia - that does sound tasty. Too bad I didn't snatch them up while they were there!

Linda - I love the color and the way pumpkins always mean fall to me. Love you too!

Ande - I'm sorry about your attempts at pumpkins. I had no idea they were so persnickety.

JP - Only a gardener would know that. I'm just a garden watcher. :-)

Robin - Thanks! That's great to hear in anybody's opinion.

JT - Who knew? When I used to drive around Michigan in the fall, pumpkins were everywhere so I thought growing them was a snap.

jlsathre - I think he will. It's nice you came along on this little trip.