Kids Enjoy White House Harvest
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
And today was a busy day at the White House: a meeting with the South Korean president, questions about health care, financial regulations, and Iran and there was real action on the horticultural front, on the front lawn - no, not on the front lawn, on the South Lawn.
First lady Michelle Obama has been overseeing the new White House kitchen garden. She's had help from a few dozen fifth-graders from Bancroft Elementary School here in Washington, D.C., and they were out in the garden again today.
NPR's Scott Horsley was out there, too. Hello, Scott.
SCOTT HORSLEY: Great to be with you.
NORRIS: Good day for a little gardening?
HORSLEY: It was a great day. It was cool. There was no rain this afternoon, but we've had a lot of rain in recent days, and the garden is looking terrific. This was the kids' chance to enjoy the fruits, or I should say the vegetables, of their labor.
Ms. MICHELLE OBAMA: All right, so it's harvest day. We've been through the whole process, right?
Unidentified Children: Yes.
Ms. OBAMA: You guys came and helped pull up the soil. You remember how hard that was?
Unidentified Children: Yeah.
Ms. OBAMA: So, now, today is the fun part. We get to pick some stuff, clean it, cook it and eat it with Sam.
NORRIS: That was first lady Michelle Obama talking about Sam, and by Sam, she means Sam Cass. That's the Obamas' personal chef from Chicago.
HORSLEY: That's right, and he's now one of the White House chefs, and he's also become sort of the unofficial head gardener in the kitchen gardener. Michele, my garden should look this good. There is not a weed in sight. It has been very productive, and Chef Cass told us this afternoon they've already harvested some 90 pounds of produce.
Chef SAM CASS (White House): The kale, the collards and the chard have just been non-stop. I mean, it's just been incredible. We have one beautiful eggplant that I hope somebody takes a picture of - right, sticking out of the corner. That'll be our first eggplant. So it's been great. We've had herbs every single night.
HORSLEY: They're growing oregano, rosemary, thyme. Pretty soon they're going to have tomatoes, but not yet. We could see the fruit was loading down the vines, but the earliest sun gold tomatoes are still a few days shy of being ripe.
NORRIS: Now this, after all, is a kitchen garden. So the kids had a chance to actually the, as you say, vegetables of their labor. What did they actually have?
HORSLEY: They did. They set up neat picnic tables with red checkered tablecloths outside the White House, and the kids harvested armloads of red and green lettuce. They made salad with homemade dressing. Some of them went into the White House kitchen and baked chicken. They joked that's the new fried. Everyone washed his hands, and then they sat down to eat, but I've got to tell you, Michele, some of the produce did not make it to the table.
Ms. OBAMA: Did you guys pull a snap pea or two?
Unidentified Children: Yeah.
Ms. OBAMA: All right.
Unidentified Child #1: I pulled five.
Ms. OBAMA: You can eat those right now. They taste good right now if you pop one in your mouth. Let me show you. Just bite it. Yup, you eat the whole thing.
Unidentified Child #2: Good (unintelligible).
Ms. OBAMA: It's sweet.
NORRIS: The first lady there getting kids to eat their vegetables. I guess that's the point of all of this - eat healthy.
HORSLEY: That's right. The first lady is really trying to educate children and parents about the importance of healthy eating, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. But, you know, Chef Cass, who spent a lot of time with these youngsters, says some of them have learned a broader lesson about taking care of themselves and their communities.
Chef CASS: One young fellow talked about how he learned to be gentle, how being gentle was really important with the plants, with the worm that he dug up. Then he realized that he needed to be gentle with his classmates and with his family, and it was really moving and really beautiful what they said. I was blown away.
HORSLEY: So from little seeds, Michele, big things might be growing.
NORRIS: That's NPR's Scott Horsley. Thanks so much, Scott.
HORSLEY: My pleasure.
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