By DARLENE SUPERVILLE
WASHINGTON (AP) -- First lady Michelle Obama's vegetable garden is ready for the winter.
White House assistant chef Sam Kass, who oversees the garden, is using "hoop houses" to help it grow during the cold months.
The houses amount to inexpensive coverings that are pulled tight around curved metal bars placed into the soil. They trap heat during the day when the sun is shining and help protect the garden from frost overnight.
Kass commented Wednesday in a post on the White House blog.
For the winter, the garden on a patch of the South Lawn has been planted with spinach, lettuce, carrots, mustard greens, chard and cabbage. More varieties will be added in the coming weeks, Kass said.
White House chefs are especially looking forward to using the spinach in soups, salads and in executive chef Cristeta Comerford's "cream-less" creamed spinach, said Kass, who prepared meals for the Obamas when they lived in Chicago. They brought him with them to the White House.
"Winter spinach is extra sweet," Kass said. "Sugar doesn't freeze, so spinach produces extra sugars in the winter to protect itself from frost. It tastes almost like candy."
Kass also said areas of the garden that aren't being planted with vegetables will be covered with a layer of rye. Farmers use the grain to help rebalance the soil and prevent erosion during the winter, Kass said.
The garden was planted in the spring and has produced more than 1,000 pounds of food since then, some of it served at the White House and some of it donated to a nearby soup kitchen.
On the Net:
White House blog: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2009/12/16/planting-winter-garden
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.