WASHINGTON (AFP) — US First Lady Michelle Obama and 25 young schoolchildren on Thursday planted seedlings in the White House's first kitchen garden since the mid-1900s.
And, to hear her tell it, the 1,100-square-foot (102 square meter) plot of land was the talk of President Barack Obama's just-completed trip to Europe and Iraq.
"The number one question I got as the First Lady from world leaders -- they were all excited about this garden," she said.
"Every single person, from Prince Charles on down, they were excited about the fact that we were planting a garden, because in many countries they really believe in the importance of planting and growing your own food," she said.
The first lady, wearing a windbreaker, dark pants and sneakers and brown-and-white garden gloves, gently placed seedlings into holes dug by two schoolgirls, who then watered the plants.
Michelle Obama championed the first presidential vegetable patch since Eleanor Roosevelt's "victory garden" in World War II as part of her crusade to promote healthy eating.
If all goes according to plan, the White House could be serving its own blueberries "by the end of June," said Sam Kass, who is assistant White House chef.
The garden includes perennial herbs like mint, garlic chives, thyme, oregano, anise hyssop, sage, rosemary, majoram, chamomile, as well as annual herbs like parsLey, basil, Thai basil, cilantro, dill and fennel.
It will also grow various lettuces, spinach, onions, shallots, chard, snap peas, shell peas, carrots, black kale, rhubarb, arugula, tomatoes, tomatillos, sweet and hot peppers, beans, cucumbers, okra, and sweet potatoes, as well as blueberries and raspberries.
It will also include some of early US president Thomas Jefferson's favorite crops, like the Marseille fig, thanks to a donation from the foundation that oversees his estate.
As well as stressing healthy eating habits, the new White House garden is designed to highlight the importance of good food at a time when many families are hard pressed by the economic crisis.
Produce will be used throughout the White House and a nearby soup kitchen for homeless people which the first lady has already visited.
At a time when President Obama is being forced to run up huge budget deficits, his Republican critics might be relieved to find out that the project is costing a mere 200 dollars.
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