Page last updated at 17:44 GMT, Friday, 20 March 2009

The Obamas to eat what they grow

The Obama's take off in the Marine One helicopter from the south lawn of the White House (7 February, 2009)
The Obama family plan to eat what they grow in the White House in the future

US First Lady Michelle Obama is set to break the ground for an organic garden on a patch of the south lawn to grow produce for the White House kitchen.

Local primary school pupils will help her with the planting and harvesting of the vegetables, herbs and salad crops.

Promoting healthy eating for American families has become a part of the first lady's agenda.

She has promised her whole family will be getting involved, and even President Barack Obama will help with weeding.

Mrs Obama hopes that inspiring children will help spread the healthy eating message to others.

"My hope is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities," she said in an interview in her East Wing office.

The plot of land given over to the new kitchen garden, which will measure about 1,100 sq ft (102.2 sq m), will be visible from the street.

Exotic plants

Among the 55 varieties of vegetables the Obamas are planning to cultivate are spinach, chard, collards and black kale.

The more exotic plants in the new garden will be rocket, coriander, tomatilloes, hot peppers and anise hyssop herbs.

Assorted vegetables
Most First Families have not planted a White House vegetable garden

Several varieties of lettuces including red romaine, green oak leaf, butterhead, red leaf and galactic will be planted.

The selection was put together by the White House chefs who will use the the produce to feed the Obama family and for official events.

Toby Buckland, lead presenter on the BBC's flagship gardening programme, Gardeners' World, warmly welcomed the venture.

"I'm delighted that the first family are leading the way in the USA by growing their own," he told the BBC news website.

Whether you have a White House, a greenhouse or even just a grow bag or a window box, it's easy to grow your own grub
Toby Buckland
Gardeners' World

"Whether you have a White House, a greenhouse or even just a grow bag or a window box, it's easy to grow your own grub."

He recommended that in Washington, with its cold winters and humid, hot summers, the best vegetables to grow would be pumpkins, string beans and sweetcorn.

"I am chuffed to bits that the president and his first lady want to get their nation growing their own too," said Mr Buckland.

"Together maybe we can help spread the grow-your-own message right around the world! Can we grow it? Yes we can!"

The initiative will be welcomed by advocates of the eat local movement such as Kitchen Gardeners International, a coalition of gardeners whose mission is to inspire and teach people to grow their own food.

More than 100,000 people signed the group's online petition urging the Obamas to replant an edible garden at the White House. In 1800 John Adams, the first president to live in the White House, planted a garden.

In the last century, Eleanor Roosevelt planted a Victory Garden during World War II, while the Clintons had a small rooftop garden that grew vegetables and herbs in the 1990s.

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