Another Appeal for a White House Garden

I’ve gotten a little weary with all the stories kibbitzing about what kind of dog the First Family should get. After all, Malia (who seems as smart as both her parents) did the research, and determined that the "optimal" dog would be a goldendoodle. Part of getting a dog is doing the research, and it seems Malia ought to be trusted with making her own decisions (provided Sasha agrees), without having to play to various interest groups. 

Not so the appeals for the Obamas to set an example by turning part of the White House lawn into a garden. And I liked this video, so I decided to post it.

Meanwhile, if anyone wants some winter squash, just let me know. I had this really brilliant idea this year. Ever since I started my garden, I’ve consistently been gone for most or all of August, right in the middle of when veggies come in. So this year, knowing I’d be driving to Denver for the Convention, I decided to plant two crops that would hold until I got back: winter squash, and amaranth. Worked like a charm–except I now have a very full laundry baskey of acorn squash in the basement, and I just found three new squashes while raking yesterday. (The amaranth is probably dry now, so I’ve got to figure out how to separate the chaff–has anyone done that before?)

43 replies
  1. freepatriot says:

    if I ate squash or tomatoes, I’d trade ya some tomatoes for some squash

    as it stands, I’m givin away the tomatoes as fast as I can

    the peppers an carrots are great though

    no squash allowed, unless punkins count …

    what the hell is amarath (kinda like myrrh an frankincense ???)

      • freepatriot says:

        so it’s a seed grain ???

        kinda looks like milo (it’s cow food)

        gotta be better than cornbread

        *disclaimer, I’m descended from Sooners, but I don’t eat corn bread or biskits an gravy (my daddy is so ashamed)

        and while we’re on the topic, anybody interested in acorn bread (we got shitloads of them here naturally)

        an I forgot to mention I got beans too

          • freepatriot says:

            You gotta boil the acorns to get the tannin out. Don’t forget that.

            I’ve heard that you can wash them in cold water, but I assume boiling would be faster

            I’m not gonna try em till I run outta real food and freepers to eat

            I’m just amazed by the amount of em

            some trees near my house produce 50 pounds or so, maybe more

            200 years back, acorns was the staple food in my neighborhood

            I might get the neighborhood kids interested in making some adorn bread (but I hear it tastes terrible) other than that, I just thought I’d ask if anybody had any interest

            • scribe says:

              Or, you could feed them to the squirrels and have Mike Huckabee and his brother come around with their .22s and popcorn popper and make you some squirrel poppers….

    • pdaly says:

      I read that thread, too, and it prompted me order a second generation pressure cooker this month. Crock pots test my patience, whereas pressure cookers are the “microwaves of the past.” Second generation means there are more safety features and no (or fewer) food explosions.
      It should be arriving in the mail so I’ll find out shortly if I like the taste of pc food as much as food from a crock pot.

      EW, so that’s amaranth.
      Based on the color of the shoots, I just might have some growing wild in my backyard. However, maybe not– as I think my plants’leaves are green. Without the shopping labels it’s hard to know…

      Last year, I tossed an aging acorn squash into my backyard next to my discarded pumpkin. Snow was on the ground so the pumpkin had to be several months old. When I returned home from work, the pumpkin was half eaten and the acorn squash was …missing. No crumbs.

      I might have a giant squirrel living out among my trees.

      • freepatriot says:

        you might have raccoons

        and if ya don’t, I could send you a couple of em

        we got at least a dozen on my block, and I’ve seen pairs of raccoons in about six other places around town

        I can’t tell which one flipped me off, they all wear masks …

  2. phred says:

    Great post EW. Just sent the link for the video and petition to the farm manager at our CSA — hoping she will share it with the rest of the members in her next newsletter.

    Can’t help you with the squash — we’ve got all we can handle from our CSA, but if you need recipes, just let me know ; )

    No idea how to go about processing the amaranth. Good luck with that!

    • emptywheel says:

      Oh, and I’ve got more squash coming from the CSA (though I tend to put the acorn squash back–they’ve got the yummy delicatas that don’t last as long). Plus, my frozen CSA starts next week.

      So yeah, I guess this is a request for recipes, if no one wants my squash. I’ve got my own “Testament To My Love” burrito recipe I made up for mr. emptywheel (who loves both squash and potatoes).

      • bmaz says:

        Aw, ya gotta wait until after lunch before you describe that delicacy again…..

        Okay, seriously though, how much and what kind of food would the size garden the guy was preparing on the video yield? How much of a 3-4 person family’s food needs could be met?

        And can Obama and the kids maybe raise a cow and pig for burgers and bacon too?

        • emptywheel says:

          In your neighborhood? Not gonna happen.

          In mine? My garden is about the same size as that guys–though I am a terrible gardener. I can grow most of teh tomatoes I need or corn for several months, or acorn squash for a lifetime (from the looks of things) or, if i used it better, could have a steady supply of food for the summer, but not enough to store. My CSA farmer grows enough for several hundred families, a bunch of restaurants, and a full spread at the Farmers 3X a week with just 40 acres.

          • scribe says:

            Sounds about right on the size issue.

            Bmaz – the issue is not necessarily size, but water and soil chemistry. If you’re from one of the more “deserty” areas of Ariz., your soil will probably do (might need some loam and enriching amendment), at least for sandy soil crops, but your water bill will be ginormous. You could consider drip irrigation or planting water hoses (the porous ones made from recycled tires) below the surface to keep the plot moist, but don’t count on growing stuff that needs a lot of water. And the area you need to look at is the area that is sufficiently watered.

            EW (and me, for that matter) live in wetter areas, where water is not as much of an issue and soil quality is likely better. A garden the size of that guy’s is enough, like EW says, to provide supplemental veggies for his family. By way of contrast, I grew up on a 1/3 acre suburban lot and my dad (an excellent gardener) grew scads of veggies that left us needing to buy only the stuff we couldn’t grow (spinach, carrots, cole crops) and some frozen mixed veggies in winter. His garden was about 20-25 feet by 75-100 (it got bigger as we got to be teenagers). One can grow enough leaf lettuce for two for the whole season in a space only about 3 feet by 4 feet. He still does.

          • freepatriot says:

            I am a terrible gardener

            got any curious kids near your house ???

            they’ll do anything if they think you’re havin fun

            and you beat that child labor rap on a technicality if you don’t pay em …


          • bmaz says:

            Well, I have a pretty black thumb, but i have done some work for these people and am pretty close to them; I assume they could overcome the water issue for me. Likely my dog would dig everything up though.

        • freepatriot says:

          And can Obama and the kids maybe raise a cow and pig for burgers and bacon too?

          that might piss PETA off

          I been thinking about this, and if Obama wants to pick a fight with a liberal group to establish some conservative cred, he should pick a fight with the pacifists, not PETA

          PETA fights back

          an attack on the pacifists should be an easy fight to win

          (ducking and running)

          • WilliamOckham says:

            Just try us and see…

            The problem with fighting with us pacifists is that even when you win, you get no credit, cuz, like, dude you beat up the pacifists. And sometimes you lose (just ask the Brits…), then you really look stupid.

          • LabDancer says:

            Chickens maybe, but definitely bugs. The relative energy input to benefit of raising various sizes and types of food mammals versus food dinosaurs is almost uniformly in favor of small foraging dinosaurs, ranging in the first instance between 10:1 to over 50:1 with the largest concentration around 19:1 [assuming one includes fresh water inputs and marketing costs, which I do[ and in the second between 4:1 to 20:1 with the largest concentration around 12:1

            [I write that with some trepidation, given the chief assumption that it’s safe to discount restricted movement immature homo sapiens entirely as a commercially viable food source – most immediately due to the dearth of readily availlable data, but even accounting for the normally safe assumption that the US government has a secret program underway somewher that may fill most if not all that gap, I should think one would be safe in anticipating some serious level of resistance, such as from members of faith-based communities.]

            whereas the ratio for food bugs ranges from 2:1 [the data on this extreme being limited by the fact it comes from SE Asia with a climate that does not require very much in the way of heating costs], to 8:1 [mostly caused by some variants in which additional inputs are thought to be necessitated by special risks, for example to crop handlers from tarantulas and venomous spiders, or from the crops high degree of mobility],

            with the largest concentration being around 4:1.

            • freepatriot says:

              I’m not eatin bugs, man

              I ate chocolate covered grass hoppers once, but I was 8, and Kuzuo was a really convincing foreign exchange student …

              we got him back though, took him frog gigging, that really fucked with his head


              I only change the names if I need to protect the guilty

      • phred says:

        Let me echo PW’s enthusiasm for squash soup (Curried squash and mushroom soup, page 12 of The Moosewood is the hubby’s favorite) and squash risotto (Penzey’s had a great recipe for this in one of their catalogs last year — happy to type it up and send it along later if you like).

        In general, I tend to do 2 things with squash: peel it and dice it into large cubes, or bake it and puree it.

        The cubes are great for roasting (olive oil, sea salt, rosemary, sage, and thyme — or whatever herbs make you happy). We have roasted root vegetables (pg. 615, Bittman’s How to Cook Everything) with cous cous regularly. And I’ll frequently toss the leftovers into a pot with some broth to make a soup (which freezes nicely).

        The pureed squash ends up in creamy soups (the hubby likes his aforementioned favorite soup pureed rather than lumpy), breads and pies (squash works just as well as pumpkin), and I just recently got a recipe for squash pancakes (haven’t tried it yet though).

        When I cook I do everything in large batches, so I can freeze leftovers for later. This is especially handy for baking/pureeing squash. Freeze a lot all at once, then pull it out for recipes throughout the winter as needed.

        Ok, there you have more than freepatriot ever wanted to know about squash ; )

        Too bad you don’t live closer by EW, you could drive over with your squash, we could make pies, and grow up to be props ; )

          • phred says:

            Funny you mention the seeds… I have a lovely porcelain crown on one of my molars following an unfortunate incident with home-made roasted pumpkin seeds. Suffice it to say I compost ‘em now ; )

  3. Phoenix Woman says:

    Squash soup, squash risotto, grilled squash — yum!

    Amaranth is yummy, too — it makes excellent breakfast cereal. Hope the neighbors didn’t give you guff for planting “pigweed”!

  4. freepatriot says:


    resist the squash mongers dude

    don’t join the “eat your vegetables” crowd

    on that path lies danger …

    (flying asparagus spears could take an eye out, they’re pointy, ya know …)

  5. klynn says:

    Hey great work EW. I head up a community gardening effort in our neighborhood. This would be a great effort for the ACGA (American community Garden Association) to rally. I’ll send this to the director. Their national headquarters are here in Columbus. I was thinking of doing an Oxdown on the new Community Gardening Campus they are building at the Franklin Park Conservatory here in Columbus. The campus will provide training for across the nation and world.

    If you ever make it to Columbus call. I’ll take you and introduce you to the director. I’ve taken classes and the director is wonderful.

  6. skdadl says:

    What a great video — I loved that (you’ve got to listen all the way to the end).

    I could be cultivating on my postage stamp but I didn’t this year. Like a lot of guilt-ridden city persons, a couple of months ago I joined a group that delivers a bin of locally grown organic veggies once a week, thinking that that would make me feel virtuous and healthy at the same time.

    In many ways, it is great — there’s always something unusual in there that I’ve never cooked before, and I really can taste the difference in many of the veggies. Man, the killer radishes were champs.

    But I am falling srsly behind. I now have a heap of acorn squash too, and I’m afraid to look at what I put in the crisper last week and still haven’t touched. I’m beginning to feel like Lucy and Ethel working the conveyor belt in the chocolate factory.

    I should figure out a way to donate some of what I get — not much point in handing a raw squash to a street person.

  7. scribe says:

    Ha, ha, ha, ha, you planted squash….
    That’s like planting a few zucchini….

    Seriously, though, what you could think of doing next year, seeing as how you get out of town for August or whatever, is planting some fall lettuce and endive just before you skip town. (Pick a shadier, cooler spot in your garden so the young lettuce doesn’t get sunburnt.) I did that, and I’m having some wonderful salads now. Next spring, get a couple extra packs of the arugula mix and the mixed greens mixes (stuff like rocket, chervil, etc. in it). If you cloche and cold-frame it right, you can have fresh salad through Christmas.

    I’d also suggest getting some pole beans b/c by this time of year they will have pretty well dried themselves on the vine and be ready to go straight from pod to mason jar to keep pretty much indefinitely. Cleaning out the cupboard lately, I found some that might be 10 years old and are still delicious.

    That, and legumes like pole beans will provide nitrogen to replenish the soil that’s all depleted … after you grew all that squash!

  8. TobyWollin says:

    to process the amaranth, EW, you’re going to need a flat surface, like a shallow flattish basket and a fan. turn on the fan and stand in front of it with some of the amaranth in the basket and flip the basket a little bit so that the amaranth pops up in the air – the fan will blow the chaff away. By the way, did you know you can use amaranth like popcorn?

  9. rosalind says:

    a few weeks back i was awakened by the sounds of a raccoon rumble. they set off my motion detector light so i peeked out the window to see two of ‘em in a loud stand-off. the one finally chased off the other, then ran over to my apricot tree, tapped her front legs against the bark, and four little babies came climbing down one by one. all assembled, they marched off into the darkness Mom leading the way.

    almost made up for the interrupted sleep.

  10. LabDancer says:

    Also, we feel comforted by the idea that if we want to eat arugula, and we see there’s a bug that wants to eat arugula too, well then…

  11. Rayne says:

    Try dehydrating the squash — have an unsophisticated but idle dehydrator if you find yourself in this neck of the woods and want to borrow it.

    Could have traded an excess of red peppers that I’ve since had to give away; maybe we’ll have to set up a vegetable exchange blog and plan better next year with other veggie-growing bloggers.

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