'American Grown': Michelle Obama's first book offers fresh take on gardening
Over the past few years, America has gotten to know Michelle Obama as a first lady, mother of two and champion of military families and healthy eating. Now she’s joining the ranks of husband president Barack Obama and others, as a published author.
In her first ever book, American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America, Mrs. Obama offers readers a glimpse of a garden that’s become symbolic of her views about healthy eating, family and community.
Back in April 2009, Mrs. Obama planted the kitchen garden on the White House’s South Lawn, and since that time has often been seen tilling its soil, along with school kids and others in the community. As fresh vegetables, fruit, and herbs sprouted from the ground, the garden helped to inspired conversations across the country about the food Americans feed their families — or don’t feed them, in many urban areas where food deserts mean there’s limited or no access to fresh produce.
Mrs. Obama has tied the garden into her philosophy about eating and the “Let’s Move” exercise initiative. She also discusses the collective impact it’s having on the health and well-being of America’s children as diabetes and other obesity-related conditions soar.
So how does Mrs. Obama’s garden grow? Well, here’s a sampling: there’s lettuce, corn, tomatoes, collards and kale, sweet potatoes and rhubarb, fresh herbs and more.
And while today it’s all flourishing and even used for state dinners, family meals and the like, the Chicago-born Obama reveals her early worries as a novice gardener — one who fretted about whether the new plants would actually take root.
But the garden did grow. And the $30 dollar hardcover book — a hefty 242 pages — charts every season of that growth, accompanied by colorful original photographs that bring it all to life.
Mrs. Obama’s journey in the book continues as she travels the country and shares the stories of other gardens that have moved and inspired her along the way.
We hear stories of communities that are transforming the lives and health of their citizens.
For instance, Houston workers who’ve made the sidewalk near their office bloom, and a New York City school that created a scented garden for the visually impaired. There’s a North Carolina garden that devotes its entire harvest to those in need, just as the White House regularly donates part of its bounty to the homeless in the nation’s capital.
There’s history too, with a nod to Eleanor Roosevelt, who planted a Victory Garden at the White House, and Mrs. Obama’s personal recollections of the gardens her African-American forebears planted, too.
Last but not least, the book features recipes from the team of White House chefs, created, of course — with what else — ingredients found in the White House garden.
Readers also get a primer on how to plant their own gardens in the backyard, school or community green space.
In American Grown, Mrs. Obama makes the case that a garden can prove symbolic for what a nation can grow and do when everyone works together.