Former First Lady Michelle Obama has been an absolute sweetheart of America. And when she referred to the White House Vegetable Garden as her baby, it isn’t surprising that the garden, therefore, garnered a lot of attention. Though the responsibility of the vegetable garden at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has now changed hands, the tradition of maintaining a Kitchen Garden remains.
Here are 10 interesting things that you’ll love about the White House Kitchen Garden:
Tracing the history of the tradition of kitchen gardens in the White House, we go back in time to the year 1800. It was the second President of the United States, John Adams, and first lady Abigail Adams who planted the first White House Garden. They did so because they fed themselves on homegrown fruits and garden produce, and never bought their greens from the local market.
Thomas Jefferson’s garden at the White House prompted several Americans to plant vegetable gardens in their own backyard. This trend of serving as inspiration continues till date. Americans look up to the First Family and the kitchen garden has been a constant reminder of self-sustenance.
Former President, Jimmy Carter, although himself a farmer and agriculturist, despite having popularized gardening in his electoral campaign as a key aspect of the future of the Nation, declined the offer to plant a vegetable garden in 1978 at The White House.
The White House kitchen gardens have not always been on the grounds of the White House property. Former President Bill Clinton wasn’t too keen on having a Kitchen Garden at the White House at all but eventually had to have one conforming to White House tradition. The Clinton family ultimately planted a small vegetable garden on the roof of the Presidential Residence. From here, the garden produce was used in the kitchens of the White House.
In the past five years, rooftop gardens have become quite the trend when it comes to American Homes. Combining the need for environment-friendly models and healthy living, terrace vegetable patches aren’t just for the Presidents anymore!
First Lady Michelle Obama really brought the White House Kitchen Garden into the limelight and her work on the same made the garden a celebrity in its own right. Her involvement of White House Horticulturist Dale Haney, a fleet of chefs and several schoolchildren from the Bancroft Elementary School in the planting of the vegetable garden at the White House was celebrated and much talked about.
During the eight years that the Obamas resided at the White House, no beets were grown in the kitchen garden. The garden had crops that were favorites of past presidents but no beets were grown as President Barack Obama did not like the crop.
The White House Kitchen Garden retains preferred vegetable and fruit crops of former presidents. For instance, Thomas Jefferson’s favorites, Brown Dutch and Tennis Ball Lettuce, Prickly seed spinach, and Savoy Cabbage were even grown during the Obama administration.
Michelle Obama, First Lady and Project Facilitator of the white house kitchen garden had no earlier experience in gardening or maintaining a kitchen garden. She, however, took a hands-on approach and ensured that there was involvement from every member of the Obama family in the sowing and maintaining of the Kitchen Garden. She believed that homegrown produce encouraged healthy living and cooking meals at home compared to unhealthy foods from outside.
Michelle Obama aimed to educate children about the benefits of having home grown and home cooked meals. This was aimed at creating obesity awareness and as a method to tackle the same – children who are aware of the benefits of consuming local produce would not feel the need to consume unhealthy food from outside. The aim was to target children of this generation so they could pass on the message to their families as well.
Michelle Obama’s involvement with the White House Kitchen Garden was intense and meticulous. But the end of the Obamas’ residence also means that the responsibility of the Kitchen Garden also has to be passed on to the succeeding first lady.
In fact, it isn’t only the White House Garden that gets passed on, but the idea of delicious meals from home grown produce. Join the tradition and plant your own garden, be it in your backyard, in pots and containers in your balcony or in a shared community plot. If the hours in your day don’t allow for too much sowing and weeding, start with just a few herbs on your kitchen windowsill and you’re sure to love it.
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