Melim’s Monster Veggies

Ava Occhialini, Staff Writer

[aesop_image imgwidth=”337px” img=”” align=”right” lightbox=”off” caption=”Courtesy photo taken by Joe Melim” captionposition=”left”]

Ann Melim, and English teacher at HB, grows more than just her student’s essay writing skills. Having grown up around gardens, Melim started the hobby of cultivating her own in 2005. By 2009, she had expanded her gardening repertoire to mammoth proportions.

Her crown jewel of the garden is a long gourd she christened “Gourdo.” Gourdo has grown to an unbelievable six feet, three inches. That makes this veggie just an inch shy of Tom Brady’s stature. “I was going to enter in the Deerfield Fair, but I decided not to, because I didn’t think that my long gourd would be long enough.”

She recently found out, had she chosen to enter Gourdo in the Deerfield competition, her prized plant would have been awarded a coveted second place. “There was a $200 cash prize, so I’m kind of kicking myself for not entering it,” said Melim. She also enjoys growing gargantuan pumpkins, but currently, the long gourd is her favorite to cultivate.

Giant vegetables demand meticulous care, and prove a time consuming challenge, but it is one that Melim pursues for the thrill of competing against herself and others. Upkeep requires ample fertilization, persistent watering, and heating coils beneath the soil during springtime. The vegetables must be kept warm overnight and carefully pruned. Melim has a ten foot tall trellis for her long gourds, which she pollinates by hand during the nighttime, when their flowers open.

Even after such toilsome efforts, vegetables can still suddenly and unexpectedly begin to rot. After pouring so much time and work into cultivating a giant vegetable, seeing it rot is often a large source of emotional upheaval. “You’re so emotionally attached to this plant… if something goes wrong, it’s a little depressing,” stated Melim.  

Ultimately, Melim says she owes her initiation into the world of giant vegetables to her uncle, Jim Beauchemin, a member of the Giant Pumpkin Grower’s Association. Her uncle, who has previously won an award for growing the largest pumpkin in New Hampshire, has always been very generous in giving Melim sprouts of her own from his award winning plants.

Though Melim also grows potatoes, beans, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, and peppers of the average-sized variety, there is an unmistakable dramatic touch in giant vegetables that sets her garden apart. “It’s a science,” Melim said of her cultivations. Her dogged demand for excellence in gardening is the same tenacity that so many appreciate within her teaching. HB anticipates her next record-breaking plant, and the competitive awards she is poised to win with such an apt green thumb.