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October 5, 2012

Woman finds fruit growing from cracks in driveway

By Sara Kandel
C & G Staff Writer

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Woman finds fruit growing from cracks in driveway
This fall, longtime Eastpointe resident Dolores Sarpolus discovered melons growing from the cracks of her driveway in the 21000 block of Redmond after scattering a handful of cantaloupe seeds to attract birds in the spring.

EASTPOINTE — An Eastpointe woman was surprised to find cantaloupes growing from cracks in her driveway months after she’d spread a handful of the fruit’s seeds on the pavement for her feathered visitors this summer.

Dolores Sarpolus has seen a lot of interesting things happen throughout the 60 years she’s lived in the 21000 block of Redmond on the city’s south end, but what she discovered in her backyard this summer is something she’ll never forget.

With three children, eight grandchildren and a couple great-grandchildren on the way, Sarpolus is a busy woman, but on slow summer days, she likes to relax in her backyard and watch the wonders of the season. She saves seeds from fruit to feed birds.

It’s something she’s done for years, and every year birds flock to her yard for the tasty treat, but this year something else also happened: This year one of the seeds got away and took root in a crack in her driveway.

“Well, evidently the seed got stuck in there, in the crack, and started to grow, and I let it grow because it looked so good,” Sarpolus said. “So it got bigger and bigger,  and I said, ‘Well, I’ll see,’ because it was so good looking and that. The whole plant was loaded with flowers and I had the bees; oh, they were so happy. The bees just loved it.

“And it must have just been one seed that got in there because I don’t leave it over night,” she added. “I pick them up before night, because I don’t want no rats or something that will get into stuff. I only put out a little bit because I don’t want to worry about feeding rodents at night. Almost everything I put out the birds eat. They love it dearly.”

After a month, tiny bulbs were growing on the plant, and she realized the flowers bore a striking resemblance to the flowers she saw in her gardening days when she used to grow pickles, beets and potatoes in the rear of the yard.

“I thought it was one of them, because I used to raise everything back there, but I don’t anymore because I’m not up to par, but I thought it somehow got over here, so I let it go and it got bigger and bigger, and then I see it had these little cantaloupe or pumpkin-like fruits growing on it.”

By the end of the summer, the first cantaloupe was ready to be picked, but when she sliced it open she got another surprise.

“It’s different than our cantaloupe, due to the fact that it has, like, a peachy pink color more than our cantaloupe,” she said. “When I got the cantaloupes that the seeds came from at Kroger, I believe they said it came from Mexico, so I don’t know if it was some kind of different cantaloupe, but it has a very unique taste. Better than our cantaloupe. It was most delicious.”

With winter just around the corner, Sarpolus is hoping the two remaining large melons will ripen in time.

“It’s the end of the season now, so it’s all dying down, but I still have two cantaloupes, and this little one here and that little one here, but the little ones won’t be ready before winter.”

She’s taking extra special care of the bigger ones until they’re ready to be picked, covering them with a blanket each night to protect against the cold.

“They are most delicious — oh, I am not exaggerating,” she said. “I have to wait until they ripen a little bit more, but I have to get to them before that frost gets to them.”

They’re so delicious, she’s hoping to try and grow some in the spring in the flowerbed at the back of her yard. Still, she said there is just something special about fruit that grows from a tiny crack in the cement.

And it is special. Paul Graebert, the general manager at English Gardens on Kelly in Eastpointe, knows a whole lot about plants. He’s heard of people growing all types of fruits in Michigan, even citrus ones that are predominately grown down south, but he said driveway cantaloupe is one he never heard of before.

“I’ve never heard of it happening before, but it doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t again,” Graebert said. “Any seed that gets water can germinate, and given the right conditions, can grow. For instance, here at the store we have pansies growing in the cracks of the sidewalk.”

And if the cantaloupe grew that well in her driveway, which could have just been coincidence and luck, he said, it will probably do even better under proper growing conditions in her garden next year. For everyone else interested in growing cantaloupe in their backyards, he recommends checking out englishgardens.com in November for a list of classes and seminars in 2013.

For Sarpolus, the cantaloupe plant was almost like magic: more than that really, a miracle, a summer experience that added excitement to each week, a tasty treat at season’s end and a physical example of hope.

“This tiny seed made my summer strange and good,” she said. “It’s funny, from a single tiny seed that evidently fell into a crack, look at what God gave me, what he grew for me from one seed.”
 

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Sara Kandel at skandel@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1030.