Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously approached his first 100 days as president in 1933 to attack the demons of the Great Depression: unemployment, poverty, healthcare, and reviving industry and agriculture. All new presidents since have had a 100 day gauntlet to confront and address the many ills that face them.
Having run more than five 100-day gauntlets since announcing his bid in June, 2015, president-elect Trump has had practice facing demons. However, he hasn’t met the D.C. gladiator corps, sharpening their swords and deep-stretching for Day One.
That’s the bad news. The good news is Mr. Trump has his own garden to tend. Ironically, it has been left to him, as well as to the entire nation, by First Lady Michelle Obama in the form of the newly-established White House Kitchen Garden, her greatest achievement while occupying “The People’s House”.
President-elect Trump would do well to cultivate not only the 2,000 square foot garden, but also a taste for all things vegetable. PEOTUS is moving into not only a house with its own kitchen garden, but also a climate that has a sweet mildness unique in the country. In nearby Charlottesville, Virginia, even at a higher elevation, Thomas Jefferson grew a year-round bounty of various herbs, fruits and vegetables. Since then, American presidents from Monroe to Kennedy conjured forth gardens, arboreta, fountains and even greenhouses—the latter of which have disappeared.
On his first day in office, Saturday, January 21st, President Trump can sow seeds of peas, kale, lettuce, mustard greens, kohlrabi, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, as well as beets, carrots, chard, radishes and spinach. Also, he can plant bulbs for green onions and “seed potatoes”. He’ll be eating all of the afore-mentioned within 75 days. Indeed, the D.C. climate is so mild that the White House Kitchen Garden can yield three end-to-end crops of arugula in the first 100 days; if he sows every two weeks, he’ll have to open a farm stand on Pennsylvania Avenue.
In full disclosure, The Burpee Foundation is the sole donor of funds to maintain the White House Kitchen Garden for the next seventeen years, serving the palates of three to five new presidents.
Like all 1960s youth, I grew up attracted to fast food, even though its grease took some getting used to. When one is mobile, fast food is handy. At age 70, Trump can be as mobile as he likes, but he is courting illness by eating regularly at Colonel Sanders, or in the many kitchens at his buildings.
Changing to a plant-based diet brings you out of the darkness and into the sunlight. With a large vegetable garden steps from your bedroom window, you can easily improve your health. It takes about three weeks for average palates to adjust from “taco bowls” to fresh vegetables. Once you have tasted just-harvested and steamed broccoli with drawn butter and ground pepper, you never go back to junk food. After a month, you cannot even chew fried chicken or any other high-fat, high-sodium fast food.
For instance, president-elect Trump, and many others, may not know this but the turnip is a fantastically delicious and nutritious vegetable. Peeled and eaten with a bit of salt, few vegetables can compete. I rank kohlrabi second for high flavor, nutrition and low calories. Eat it like an apple to enjoy its delightful taste. Third place goes to the heavenly watermelon radish, so called because of its rose-pink colored flesh. It is one of God’s great gifts to the world, as is the rest of the Brassica, or cabbage, family. Like the others, sown in late January, the petite globe-shaped variation of the Japanese daikon will be ready mid-March. Quartered, drizzled with olive oil, dashed with salt and pepper, wrapped in aluminum foil, and baked for an hour or so, it is a uniquely savory dish.
With his newly-dug fingerling potatoes and a bit of melted butter, and his ever-present surplus arugula, steamed and sautéed with a touch of garlic, our born-again healthy chief executive will be ready to conquer his 101st day and many thereafter.
A version of this article appeared in the January 7, 2017 edition of The Washington Post