I think that it is instructive to look at what the layout of the WHVG (White House Veggie Garden) tells us about how it will be used. This is probably interesting from a political standpoint, but I am much more interested in it from a kitchen gardener’s standpoint. Here is the layout as provided to the NY Times
As you can see, they are planting just a few types of veggies:
chard, kale & collards
snap peas/shell peas
shallots & onions
rhubarb, radishes & carrots
Interestingly, the “tender greens”, lettuce and spinach compose like 50% of the planting with another 20% given to “hard” greens like chard, kale and collards. Interesting for two reasons. First, if you have read “In Defense of Food” as you should have, you will know that eating greens is one of the most healthy things that you can do for your diet. Second, fresh lettuce and arugula has been an absolute revelation to me about why one should have a kitchen garden. With a relatively small amount of attention, one can grow lettuce that is absolutely far and away superior to anything that you can buy. I will post shortly on how I like growing lettuces. The short version is that scattering seeds for baby lettuce is much easier and tastier than growing lettuce to full head maturity, especially in drier climates like So. Cal.
Lots of fresh peas as well, and certainly I find that snap peas are a favorite of mine and my kids in the garden. It provides a quick, sweet, clean vegetable flavor that I can enjoy anytime I go out there. I think of it as the “gateway” vegetable for kids. It doesn’t need to be washed and it is so darn sweet.
Lastly, there is quite a large section reserved for fennel and for herbs. I can’t say a lot about fennel, so I won’t. But as I have made clear before, havning an abundant supply of fresh herbs is the first thing that anyone who wants to improve the flavor of their cooking should do, hands down.
So, I think that the emphasis on soft greens, peas and herbs reflects the thinking of someone who really knows what a kitchen garden is really good at providing.