Sunday 14 April 2009
Rare vegetables 'in favour' with The Queen but charity urges donít forget the others
Many of the UK's vegetables may have fallen out of favour over the years, but while The Queen is doing her bit to help by growing rare vegetables on her new allotment, a leading charity is urging us not to forget the others.
Garden Organic's Heritage Seed Library, which donated six varieties of rare seeds to the Buckingham Palace allotment, has a further collection of 800 rare vegetable varieties that need conserving if the charity is to continue protecting Britain's vegetable heritage.
And, while The Queen is growing a selection of tomatoes, beans and lettuce, there are still cucumbers, carrots, peas, cabbages, beetroot and onions, amongst others, that need the support of Britain's gardeners if they are to be kept from being lost for good.
The royal allotment's vegetables, all with regal titles, including Blue Queen and Royal Red, were among hundreds of others in the charity's collection threatened by EU legislation in the 1970s, which prevented any varieties not registered on the national list (a costly and time consuming process) from being sold. This meant that hundreds of delicious and interesting vegetables were 'lost' over night, as people could no longer get hold of seeds to buy, or therefore, to grow.
Garden Organic's Chief Executive, Myles Bremner said, “It's great that six vegetables from our collection will be grown by The Queen, but there are still another 794 that need saving too, not to mention the new accessions that come to us each year.”
“Our Heritage Seed Library is a living collection of seeds, collected by gardeners over the last 30 years, which without our work to conserve them would be lost from the UK forever. Because legislation prevents us from selling these varieties, we need the support we receive from people like The Queen, like our members and like our Seed Guardians to have a better chance of protecting our rich, interesting and diverse plant heritage.”
While the varieties that need protecting are not only no longer available to buy from seed catalogues they cannot also be legally sold. To counter this legality Garden Organic's Heritage Seed Library has been collecting seeds that have dropped off the national list as well as other rare and heirloom vegetables and has used its army of 'Seed Guardians' to grow them out each year. They then save the seed, send it back and Garden Organic then distributes it free to its 10,000 members once a year. Members then grow the varieties in their own gardens, thus keeping the collection alive.
The six Heritage Seed Library varieties growing in the Buckingham Palace allotment include names such as White Queen and Queen of Hearts, but many other interesting varieties in the charity's collection exist such as Ragged Jack kale, John's Purple carrot and the Lazy Housewife climbing French bean Ė often given such names by their original donors. It is for the sake of preserving the genetic diversity of varieties such as these, that the charity works so tirelessly.
The Queen is not the first member of the Royal family to champion the importance of protecting plant diversity, indeed Patron of Garden Organic, The Prince of Wales, is already the adoptive parent of another vegetable in the charity's collection - the Rat's Tail Radish.
Garden Organic's Heritage Seed Library is the only collection of vegetables recognised by the National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens (NCCPG). It now hopes that its latest high profile supporter will help it gain new members for to continue its vital conservation work.
Membership of Garden Organic's Heritage Seed Library is just £20 a year, which entitles annual access to up to six varieties of vegetable seeds. Alternatively why not support the charity's conservation work by 'Adopting a Veg'. Find out more about Garden Organic's Heritage Seed Library or to become a member, join online or call 024 76303517.
For more information contact Charlotte Corner on 02476 217707 or email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The stories behind the varieties donated to the Palace allotment:
Climbing French Bean Blue Queen
Our donor was given this bean in 1950 by a gardener from Quenington House, who said he should look after them as you could no longer purchase them. They were identified in 1994 by Ron Bateman, a DJ on Radio Oxford, as 'Blue Queen'. The seed produces purple, stringless pods, 15-20cm in length, which turn green when, cooked. Have a lovely, sweet flavour when eaten young.
Lettuce Northern Queen
The donor found these seeds amongst her father's gardening clutter. Further investigation revealed the variety was originally sold by Finney's, a Northumberland firm with nurseries in Newcastle. Finney's closed in the 1950s, at which time Northern Queen was the main outdoor variety, popular with both amateur and commercial growers. A large butterhead variety with soft, mild flavoured leaves.
Tomato Golden Queen
Bred by the Livingston Seed Company, Columbus, Ohio, in 1882, this yellow tomato has a distinct pink blush at the blossom end.
Tomato Queen of Hearts
Our donor acquired these seeds from an elderly lady who had been given them many years ago at a seminar. The person delivering the talk was American, and it was assumed that the variety was of American origin.
Tomato White Queen
“Gives a good yield, and not bland like many other white varieties”
Royal Red Dwarf French Bean
This variety was bred at Prosser, Washington State USA for the USDA. It was developed for its multiple disease resistance. Its popularity was limited as it produced seeds too plump and too large for the canning industry. However it produces strong and prolific plants with a rich, beany flavour “very tasty eating”.
Notes to editors
- Garden Organic is the UK's leading organic growing charity dedicated to researching and promoting organic gardening, farming and food and has been at the forefront of the organic horticulture movement for 50 years.
- The charity, which has over 40,000 supporters, reaches more than three million beneficiaries across the world and is based at Garden Organic Ryton in Warwickshire.
- The organisation runs major research and international development programmes that help growers across the UK and overseas adopt organic methods.
- Over 15% of all schools in the UK have now joined Garden Organic's educational programme, Garden Organic for Schools, which helps pupils learn about food and organic growing.
- Garden Organic actively campaigns on issues vital to both people and the environment, including health, sustainability and climate change.
- Over 600 Master Composter volunteers from around the UK have now been trained to spread the home composting message through Garden Organic's sustainable waste programme.
- Garden Organic also manages demonstration gardens at Garden Organic Ryton in Warwickshire, and Garden Organic's walled kitchen garden at Audley End, Essex in association with English Heritage.
- Garden Organic Ryton boasts an award-winning restaurant and the world's first public biodynamic garden. The site is also home to the charity's renowned Heritage Seed Library, which preserves over 800 varieties of threatened vegetables.
- Garden Organic members enjoy a quarterly magazine, members only web pages and information sheets. Members also have access to the charity's dedicated team of advisors who answer more than 5,000 organic gardening queries every year.
- In addition, members gain unlimited free admission to the charity's demonstration gardens together with the RHS gardens at Wisley, Harlow Carr, Rosemoor and Hyde Hall, plus over 20 other gardens across the UK.
- To find out more visit www.gardenorganic.org.uk