Nayda Maymi began gardening at the Essex Street Community Garden four years ago. As she strolled from one garden bed to another, inspecting the growing bok choy and tomatoes, she explained how she became involved with the garden.
Q: What are some ways you and your fellow gardeners use this space?
Nayda: People of all ages come here to just rest and relax. There are a handful of people who also like to harvest fruits and vegetables. I also keep a compost pile so that we can keep our soil healthy. Sometimes I organize volunteer days for young adults so that they can have a hands-on learning experience and grow to appreciate nature. We made limeade using mint and herbs we grew right here for our last group of volunteers.
Q: What is your favorite thing about gardening?
Nayda: I just love planting stuff and I love eating it! I’m gluten intolerant so it’s really important to know where my food comes from. When I first started at the garden, I decided to plant things that were hard to come by in the neighborhood, like bitter melon. Nobody here even knew what that was! Bitter melon is good for people with diabetes because it helps regulate insulin. Those who tried it actually felt better and now specifically ask me to grow it.
People were finally opening their eyes to vegetables that weren’t primarily starches like potatoes, peas and corns—the only kind of produce they were familiar with. This garden has quite literally helped improve my health and of those in my neighborhood.
Q: What is your favorite quality about this space?
Nayda: This garden itself helps build relationships between the people who live in this neighborhood—an opportunity that they would otherwise not have. It makes me feel connected to my neighborhood.
When people have the opportunity to be healthy and vibrant, it is reflected in the community and creates a neighborhood that is healthy and vibrant—and that’s the neighborhood I want to live in. If volunteering to help care for this garden can help make that happen, I’m more than happy to do it.