The White House garden produces tomatoes, peppers and beans, and its beehives produce honey for a trio of now-famous beers, but White House Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses says backyard chicken fans shouldn't count on the executive farm operation producing White House eggs any time soon.
"Hens at the White House? I don't see it," Yosses told a foreign reporter who joined a garden tour that Yosses and executive chef Cris Comerford this weekend conducted for members of the Association of Food Journalists. While the reporter insisted nobody would protest a small egg operation, her American counterparts assured her plenty of animal rights supporters would take issue with the White House keeping birds in a coop.
"I would love it," Yosses said. "But there's so much scrutiny in the White House, it has to be something (unprovocative), like a garden It's jaw-dropping isn't it? We live in a warped world."
Still, Yosses said, "Why not dream?" He reports he frequently hears from backyard chicken farmers who contend the White House - and, perhaps, the urban chicken movement - would benefit from a small flock on the far South Lawn.
"I believe that adding a small chicken coop to the White House Garden would provide you and your chefs with tasty, nutritious eggs and I am sure all of you would love the hens," a chicken advocate wrote on his blog soon after the White House garden debuted. "Aside from super tasty eggs, the hens could help "weed" and fertilize your garden."
Although Yosses is forced to import eggs for his flans, he uses the garden's flowers to garnish his pastries. "It's an actual garden we use daily," Comerford says. "Our main thing is we really have to be more seasonal."
The 1100-square foot garden was first planted in March 2009. Earlier this year, First Lady Michelle Obama released a book about the garden and her campaign against childhood obesity. In American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America, she revealed that President Barack Obama worried the White House honeybees would interfere with the White House basketball court and that the first White House cantaloupes were flavorless.
The garden isn't treated with chemicals or fertilizers (although at least one of the green-thumbed tourgoers wondered whether it would benefit from more mulch), and waste is composted in a crawly bin that thrills the garden's youngest visitors. But the bin isn't big enough to hold food scraps from the White House, so very little organic material returns to the garden from the house.
According to Yosses, this growing season's biggest successes were okra and tomatillos.
"The corn was fantastic," he says.