Monday, April 15, 2013

The White House Wheat Crop Is Thriving In The First Lady's Kitchen Garden

The first grain to be planted at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is growing rapidly...
Less than two weeks after First Lady Michelle Obama planted two kinds of organic wheat seed in her Kitchen Garden on April 4, it is doing very well.  The 'Club' and 'Bread' wheat are the first-ever grain added to the Presidential vegetable patch, and the young crops are about four inches tall.  The more than 30 other vegetable varieties are thriving, too.

Mrs. Obama planted the wheat seed in a raised bed on the southernmost side of her 1,500 square-foot garden during her fifth annual Spring planting event.  The "experimental varieties" of the seed were created by "a breeder who was breeding new varieties," according to Sam Kass, Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy. 

Kass would not identify the breeder, as is White House practice.  (Above, the wheat bed sits behind a bed of spinach and a bed of kale)

"We will harvest late July-ish,"  Kass said.

 Club wheat is a soft wheat, and Kass said that it has a head that looks like a club, almost "a ball," rather than the usual long wheat sheaf.  It's typically used for cake and bread flour, and grown almost exclusively in the Pacific Northwest.  Varieties of Bread wheat are grown in temperate regions around the world.  

More wheat will be planted in another, larger bed in the Kitchen Garden, Kass said.  He has big plans for the mature crop that includes a new kind of homebrewed beer for President Obama: White House Wheat Beer.  The wheat will also be used to make bread and other whole grain dishes, said Kass.

For those unfamiliar with plant genetics, "experimental" does not mean genetically modified with materials from another kind of plant.  

"There are no genetically modified crops in our garden," Kass said.

The Kitchen Garden gets full sun for about six hours a day in the Spring. The weather in the District of Columbia since Mrs. Obama planted the wheat seed has fluctuated between bitter cold and summer warm, with highs on a few days in the mid-80s, and lows in the mid-40s, with periods of rain and high winds.  

For Spring, there are more than thirty kinds of crops in Mrs. Obama's garden, including six kinds of lettuce, four varieties of spinach, three varieties of potatoes, three kinds of berries, and two varieties each of kale, broccoli, Swiss chard and garlic, as well as arugula, tatsoi, kohlrabi, endive, collards, herbs and more. A detailed list is in this post.   (Above, Mrs. Obama and two student helpers plant 'Bread' seed at one-inch intervals)

*Photos by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama