10 Surprising Facts About The White House Vegetable Garden
The White House is a pretty amazing place. The home and office of the President of the United States, what happens inside its doors can echo throughout the country and alter the course of history. But what happens outside its doors — on the South Lawn, to be exact — also has an impact. It’s the White House Vegetable Garden, and we bet there’s a lot you don’t know about it.
The White House’s garden dates back all the way to 1800, when its first tenants, President John Adams and first lady Abigail, decided to grow fruits and vegetables on their own property instead of buying them at local markets. Thomas Jefferson followed him up by adding fruit trees and a flower garden, and John Quincy Adams added more trees, herbs, and vegetables. Andrew Jackson built a hothouse, which was later replaced by a greenhouse, and the garden was a necessity when food rationing made its way to the White House during World War I. Later, during World War II, the Roosevelts planted a victory garden on the property in solidarity with the war effort.
Since then, however, the White House gardens have laid fallow. Jimmy Carter, who was himself a gardener, wasn’t interested in getting his green thumb back while in office, and even though the Clintons were interested in planting a vegetable garden on the grounds, they had to resort to planting a small one on the roof after their requests were denied (it was deemed that a vegetable garden went against the grounds’ formal nature); if they end up moving back into the mansion next year, their garden will be ready and waiting for them.
But when the Obamas moved into the White House in 2009, Michelle wasted no time in setting up the first garden since World War II on the mansion’s grounds. The 1,100-square-foot White House Kitchen Garden is located on the South Lawn, and more than 55 vegetable varieties are grown there and served at the White House, including spinach, chard, kale, lettuce, arugula, cilantro, chile peppers, and tomatillos. Heirloom vegetables and 10 different herbs are also planted here. It’s presided over by the White House’s chef and gardener, and has become a cause célèbre of sorts for Michelle, who uses it to highlight the positive benefits of eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, eating home-cooked meals, and of being more connected to your food sources. She’s even published a book about it, called American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America. Read on to learn 10 surprising facts about the garden.