Walking through Pinecrest’s Fairchild Gardens’ farmer’s market on a Sunday can take you to a very different place than you expected. In the middle of the market, the Doctor Pickle booth just stood out from the rest. At first, I just couldn’t figure it out. Then I started talking to Doctor Pickle himself, Harold Pitts.
With a distinct New York accent, he hawks his pickles to anyone nearby, but when you engage him the conversation quickly changes. “I was a first responder on 9/11. I lived and breathed it for seventeen days,” explains Pitts. “Within six months, I had a drinking problem and I was getting in trouble with the law for the first time in my life. A year after, I had a nervous breakdown and I knew I had to leave NYC.” It’s a heartbreaking story for a 25-year veteran New York City firefighter who loved his city.
Doctor Pickle got his start in pickles at the firehouse back in 1977. “The guys seemed to like my pickle chips and it grew from there.” It wasn’t until 2010 that his pickle hobby turned serious.
“I was in Hollywood, FL at a farmer’s market and spotted a wagon with a 343FM tag on it. I bought the wagon on the spot and went into the pickle business full-time,” explained Pitts. “Later, I discovered 343FM did not stand for the 343 firefighters that died on 9/11, but was the booth number where the wagon sat. But there are no accidents in life and God had his purpose for me finding that wagon.”
Harold Pitts turned his life around with that wagon. He is now selling his pickles in 30 farmer’s markets throughout South Florida. His pickles can also be found in Milam’s Supermarket and 15 restaurants. He’s also helping others turn their life around.
“Originally, I didn’t even know I was affected by 9/11. I had a wife, two kids and a lucrative side-business. They all dissolved around me. It wasn’t until about 2007 that I looked back on my life and saw the downward pattern that all started with 9/11.” He says there are countless others walking around with a level of PTSD from 9/11 who don’t know it. “I speak with so many people who left New York and we discover things about each other that are just below the surface. Countless divorces, behavioral changes and more…all part of 9/11 fallout.”
There are an estimated 44,000 children who are affected by 9/11 PTSD. “Last year, I started a foundation called The 911 PTSD Fund for Children. Five percent of all sales go to helping these children deal with their tragedy.”
Although this subject is dark and deep reaching, Doctor Pickle has found a way to bring humor into it. He regularly references PTSD to really stand for Pickles Taste Seriously Delicious, but you can also see he has his serious caring behind the joke. “I try to help people realize and cope. It helps them, and it helps me.” Pitts has even taken his humor to the Improv. You can see his performance here: https://youtu.be/1vw9LnZE3jA
Harold is now re-designing his labels. His studies have (unscientifically) found that those affected by 9/11 resoundingly pick the label with the Twin Towers. “It’s amazing how much that skyline is engrained in the minds of so many of us.”
I, too, was at Ground Zero hours after the towers came down. I don’t consider myself to be suffering from PTSD, but there are signs. I cope by creating video. Here is a tribute video I put together for the 10-year anniversary: https://youtu.be/uAObmRBNTBI
If you want to learn more about pickles or how Harold may be able to put you in touch with his 9/11-centric network of resources, go to doctorpickle.com or