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Endless Pumpkin Soup and Other Dishes: A Farmer and a Dilemma

Endless Pumpkin Soup and Other Dishes: A Farmer and a Dilemma

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A few months ago, I dropped three pumpkin seeds into a hole I had dug in my vegetable garden. I really didn’t expect them to grow. I had heard that most of the vegetables and fruits we buy at the store were somehow neutered so that you could never replant them from seeds; you always had to buy them at the store, either as seeds, or as plants. What did I know? I had never planted pumpkins before. Well, I planted the seeds and soon forgot about them as I prepared the beds for planting my usual crop: tomatoes, peppers, and string beans. What I did not think about was that the pumpkin seeds had come from organic plants. I was totally unprepared for what happened a few months after planting. A friend of mine had saved me a huge piece of pumpkin her husband had planted in their vegetable garden the previous year. They were so excited as their crop yielded some solid, good-tasting pumpkins which they readily shared with friends and family. I was so excited to make some Pumpkin Soup with plenty of the vegetable left over for adding to my meals. I did something I had seen others do before: I saved the seeds. A year later, they were still solid and had not rotted or anything. What’s so special about this pumpkin, you ask? It was a Jamaican pumpkin. Now, I have no idea where my friend had got the original from. I assume Home Depot where you can purchase another staple of the Jamaican diet: Scotch Bonnet Pepper. No matter, I planted the pumpkin seeds, promptly forgot about them, and went about the business of planting tomatoes, bell peppers, string beans, and, of course, Scotch Bonnet Peppers. I had also seeded the beds with some Callalloo seeds, another staple of the Jamaican diet. The Callalloo sprang up so quickly, I could not reap it fast enough. My tomatoes soon began to flower and I was excited at the prospect of a bountiful harvest like in previous years. My plants always grew into small trees for which I had to provide support to every ‘branch.’ Each evening in previous years, I found great joy in coming home from work and pulling a handful of string beans to add to my dinner. I would bring bagsful of my vegetables to friends and neighbors and I still have tomatoes I had frozen the year before. Life was good. Suddenly, I realized that the pumpkin was springing out of the earth. My excitement was great as I observed the thick, richly green leaves and stems. My mind fast forwarded to a future of Endless Pumpkin Soup and Other Dishes and my joy was complete. The leaves were huge and could provide shelter for a small child. Each morning I visited my small garden, it felt like the vine had spread a few feet overnight. I then began to panic. Soon, my panic became consternation as I observed my other plants. My tomatoes were meagre and seemed to be suffering. My peppers were not even half their expected height. The pumpkin vine, however, was flourishing as it relatively flew across the small space, overshadowing all others to their detriment. I watched its ‘tentacles’ as they grabbed onto and wrapped around anything it could find. It began climbing the wall. I thought I would train it to move in the direction I wanted it to go. But, each morning I arrived in my garden, it seemed to have gone its own way. Another friend of mine had written a book about life lessons he had learned from his kitchen garden and I had found it insightful and inspiring. Suddenly, it became clear to me. Human relationships often resemble that between the plants. It dawned on me then that the pumpkin is something of a parasitic plant as it sucks the life out of others for its own benefit. The pumpkin plant thrived. It was moving fast as it reached for what, I don’t know. I asked myself, “What is its goal?” “Where is it really headed and what is its purpose?” I thought about how often we allow people to come into our lives and overpower us with their needs and wants. They really are just doing what they do, what’s in their nature and so they see nothing wrong with it. They move so swiftly we don’t even notice until they have taken over while sucking away, leaving us dried up and unable to flourish. I recall how proud I was of the garden I had planted in previous years. My friends got tired of me posting photos on social media of my accomplishments as a ‘farmer.’ (Until I dumped a bag of my yield on their doorstep, that is). What really hit me was how beautiful the pumpkin plant was. It was glorious. It was green glory. And that was my problem. I thought about uprooting it so that my other plants could flourish. But, how do you do that to such a gorgeous plant that was doing what only it knows how to do? I thought maybe I should just wait for it to produce at least one pumpkin so that it would have been worth it. But, what if it never produces? I also thought about the amount of nourishment even one pumpkin would need and I groaned at the thought of the demise of my other plants. How often do we hold onto relationships that are sucking the life out of us but we can’t let go because the other person is so ‘beautiful’? The pumpkin finds support and sustenance in whatever it latches on to. It does not care what suffers along the way. I don’t blame the pumpkin; that is its nature. I blame myself and my curiosity and desire to prove or disprove a theory. I should have done my research before making that decision. But, isn’t that what we always do? We dig in and then ask questions later. My dilemma: do I uproot the parasite before all the joy gets sucked out of the space I had taken so much pride in or do I allow nature to do what it does? After all, had I not intervened, would they not have lived symbiotically? In other words, they would have worked together to produce, allowing each other the space each needed to yield results. Then, my wise friend said, “Sometimes, you have to let other things grow.”

1 Comment(s)

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1110 days ago

This article really caught my attention. It’s so interesting to see the path nature takes even as we try to nurture it. I grew up with a gardener for a grandmother and as of late find so much peace in seeing things grow. Your symbolism about relationships is also really insightful. 

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