Le potager de la maison blanche à maintenant un an.
Kitchen Garden: One Year Later
WASHINGTON — It’s one of the most talked about gardens in the nation. Planting this garden is cause for national headlines.
For a good number of farm families, the planting of a garden is an annual tradition. However, for most other Americans, a garden is a foreign concept. First lady Michelle Obama developed the idea of a kitchen garden with the idea of educating Americans about where their food comes from and starting a healthy eating campaign. One year and 1,000 pounds of food later, the garden effort has demonstrated its success. One of the people behind the garden is Sam Kass, White House assistant chef and food initiative coordinator. Kass utilizes the garden for White House menu preparation.
“In the end, what is really powerful about the garden is it shows kids where food comes from and how to grow it, and what it means to grow food. Essentially, what farmers do every day, all year round, and what it really takes to feed us,” Kass said Monday during a visit to the garden.
The White House garden is started from seed. Most is directly sown into the ground. Any young vegetable seedlings are started in the White House greenhouse. Kass said the garden is a year-round garden with the assistance of low hoop houses. The garden is managed with natural amendments, such as crab meal and compost. No synthetic fertilizers or chemicals are used.
Looking back at last year, Kass said he was amazed how successful the garden was. Blight was a problem for most tomato growers in 2009; however, the kitchen garden remained blight-free. “People were calling me asking, what are you doing?” he said. They wanted to know his secret. Kass’s best guess is that the garden was isolated from exposure to blight.
As for lessons learned, he noted that a couple of tomato varieties were not successful and will be replaced. The other was pumpkins. Last year, the pumpkins were planted too late in the season and did not mature in time.
New to the garden for 2010 will be sweet corn, several bean varieties, cantaloupe, leeks, artichokes and watermelons. Also, when possible, the staff will pickle, preserve and make jam from the garden’s fruit and vegetables.
One unique feature of the garden is a tribute to Thomas Jefferson. The lettuce seeds were a variety planted by Jefferson at his Monticello home. Kass said Jefferson changed how people think about gardening by planting with the seasons.
The first White House beehive was installed last year. The hive was a gift to Michelle Obama from the other first ladies at the G20 summit. The hive produced 134 pounds of honey in 2009. A White House carpenter, who is a 25-year beekeeper, manages the hive.
Working with the garden’s bounty is “a beautiful thing,” said Kass. Over the past year, he enjoyed checking the garden each night to see what was coming in, and then building a meal around the items growing in the garden. “That’s not a challenge. Everything here is so fresh and nice that you use that to your advantage.” Kass said he has been surprised by two things. The first was the extent of media coverage of the garden. The second was the volume of food the garden produced.
Imitation is the best complement. Kass said embassies are breaking ground for their own garden. People call him for the kitchen garden plans, which are now available on the White House’s website, http://www.whitehouse.gov
“No one works harder than farmers,” said Kass. “That’s essentially the point of (the garden). This is one way of growing food, of many. It takes all kinds of production to feed this country.”
Just published as the garden enters its second season, A White House Garden Cookbook by Clara Silverstein recounts the first year's successes; including creative and wholesome recipes from the White House and community gardens across the country; dishes like wasabi potato salad, James Monroe's gumbo and no-cream creamed spinach.
The book reminds us that the Obamas aren't the first First Family who has grown their own food on the White House grounds. (However they are the first to have a hive of bees and their own honey.)
John Quincy Adams grew 2 acres of vegetables, herbs and fruit trees in 1825
Abraham Lincoln grew strawberries, carrots, lettuce and celery.
Eleanor Roosevelt was actually criticized for growing a Victory Garden during WWII.
The most noted gardener who lived in the White House was Thomas Jefferson; said to have changed the way America ate. Can you imagine a world without tomatoes? At the time of his presidency they were thought to be poisonous! Jefferson's gardens at Monticello and his presidential home were an exercise in biodiversity and an adventurous palate.
No matter the controversies of his presidency, viewed through the context of history, Michelle Obama graciously dedicated a plot to Jefferson with a plaque inscribed with his oft quoted phrase, "No occupation is so delightful as the culture of the earth".