Friday, March 20, 2009

From Arugula Elitism To Arugula Eat-ism In Under Four Months: The New White House Kitchen Garden

It's the first day of Spring, and Day 60 of the Obama Era, and what better way to celebrate than breaking ground for a White House vegetable garden? First Lady Michelle Obama led the charge today, along with two dozen fifth graders from DC's Bancroft Elementary School, and cooks from the White House kitchen, including Executive Chef Cris Comerford, Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses, and assistant chef Sam Kass. (Above: The First Lady beaks ground...)

Mr. Kass will oversee the eleven hundred-foot-square garden, which approximates an "L" shape, with White House horticulturalist Dale Haney. The plot is located on the White House's South Lawn, and will be visible from the street. Eventually, there will be 55 varieties of veggies planted; for the Spring, the garden will have red romaine, green oak leaf, butter head, red leaf and galactic lettuces, spinach, chard, collards and black kale, shallots, carrots, shell peas, sugar snap peas, broccoli, fennel, and rhubarb, and onions. Herbs will include some unusual varieties, like anise hyssop and Thai basil, and there will be annuals as well as perennials. (Above: FLOTUS and Sam Kass break ground with some of the Bancroft students/Getty)

The beds will be raised, no chemical fertilizers will be used, and compost will be from the White House kitchens, as well as made of crab meal from the Chesapeake Bay, lime and green sand. To control pests, ladybugs and praying mantises will be advantageously released, and nasturtiums, zinnias, and marigolds will be planted along the main walkways that dissect the beds (these plants naturally repel insects, and are beloved by gardeners).

The garden will be an on-going learning project for the Bancroft students, who are already experienced gardeners; they've had a garden at their school since 2001. It will also supply fresh produce for the White House kitchens, and fresh produce will also be donated to Miriam's Kitchen, the social service agency where Mrs. Obama thrilled guests a few weeks ago, when she was serving up organic mushroom risotto on the lunch line. (Pic: Mrs. Obama with more Bancroft students/White House)

Mrs. Obama, the chefs, and the students celebrated the ground breaking with cider and shovel-shaped sugar cookies, and the First Lady led the kids in a cheer: "Let's hear it for vegetables! Let's hear it for fruits!" The First Lady said.

A certain vegetable will definitely be missing: Beets will be excluded, as The President has a very public dislike of the root veg. And Mrs. Obama has informed the media that everyone's going to be weeding the garden, which has been officially named "The White House Kitchen Garden."

*A terrific and fun pdf sketch of the garden plot is here. *Via Brian Hartman and Kate Barrett at ABC News: A video about the garden.

*Related: During Election Season, the President was accused of Arugula Elitism when he referenced the leafy veg while on a campaign stop.

: White House cooks go to join the big dig, including Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses, front, and Executive Chef Cris Comerford, partially hidden/Reuters