Harvest time at Michelle Obama’s garden

Harvest time already? Schoolkids joined First Lady Michelle Obama today in the White House garden to harvest some of the vegetables they planted back in April.

While President Obama was busy killing a menacing housefly, elementary school children who had helped First Lady Michelle Obama plant a vegetable garden in April were invited back Tuesday to harvest vegetables.

According to a press pool report by the National Journal’s Jerry Hagstrom, White House associate chef Sam Kass said the garden has produced lettuce, snap peas, beans, kale, collard greens, and chard. The children from Washington’s Bancroft Elementary School concentrated on harvesting lettuce and peas.

A productive plot

Before today’s harvest, White House chefs had already taken 90 pounds of produce from the garden, including broccoli and green beans and one beautiful eggplant, chef Kass said. Herbs have been harvested every night and are not included in the 90 pounds.

The garden’s bountiful output has been produced without using fertilizer or herbicide. But the underlying White House soil had been “amended” with crab meal from the Chesapeake Bay, green sand compost, and lime powder, officials said.

After completing an interview with ABC News, Mrs. Obama walked down the White House lawn dressed in orange jeans, a blouse, and patterned sweater. She thanked the children for being there when the ground was broken and the garden planted. “Your group helped pull up the soil,” she said.

Michelle's harvesting techniques

The First Lady then took a knife and showed the children how to cut lettuce heads from the bottom. When the children weighed the produce they harvested, a White House spokeswoman said it came to 73 pounds of lettuce and 12 pounds of peas.

The school children worked in two groups. One group of about 10 students was assigned to the White House kitchen. It is all stainless steel but smaller than those in many new suburban houses. Each child was given an apron and a paper chef’s hat.

One group of boys broke eggs for coating chicken which would be baked. A chef taught the boys to break the eggs on a flat surface.

A second team shelled peas. Mrs. Obama arrived and joined the team, with Chef Kass showing the children how to snap the peas. Mrs. Obama noted, “We were eating some peas in the garden. The peas are very sweet.”

Better than fried?

After a time, Mrs. Obama turned to children who were preparing the chicken and said of the baked chicken they would eat, “This is a healthier version of fried chicken.” One chef also told the children they could prepare this kind of chicken at home with “shake and bake.”

After working in the kitchen, the students and Mrs. Obama went into the First Lady’s Garden where other Bancroft School attendees were outside preparing salad and decorating cup cakes with raspberries and blueberries.

Mrs. Obama helped set the picnic table with paper plates and plastic tableware. “Today is the culmination of a lot of hard work,” she said.

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