Praise the Lazy Housewife! Rare veg to be saved for the nation

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The Independent Online

They are rare things now, the Lady Godiva Pumpkin, the Lazy Housewife French Bean and the Turk's Turban Squash, but they and another 800 varieties of traditional old British vegetables are to be saved for the nation.

They are rare things now, the Lady Godiva Pumpkin, the Lazy Housewife French Bean and the Turk's Turban Squash, but they and another 800 varieties of traditional old British vegetables are to be saved for the nation.

A windfall grant will go to Vegetable Kingdom, a visitor centre at the Henry Doubleday Research Association, the organic gardening charity near Coventry which specialises in conserving Britain's horticultural heritage.

The HDRA holds a seed collection containing hundreds of rare and endangered vegetable varieties, many developed by Victorian gardeners but hardly ever grown today. They include such magnificent-sounding specimens as the Champion of England Pea and the Rousham Park Hero Onion, as well s many with more curious names such as the Loos Tennis Ball Lettuce and the Rat's Tail Radish.

Virtually none of them can be sold on the open market because of a piece of EU bureaucracy - they are not on Britain's official seed list, set up in the 1970s, and it would cost up to £2,000 per variety to add them. Members of the HDRA are therefore given the seeds free and encouraged to grow them in their own gardens.

The £800,000 lottery grant will pay for a proper home for the seed collection - "at present it's in polytunnels and Portakabins", said the HDRA's Executive Director Jackie Gear - which will allow much greater public access.

"Everyone talks about what's happening in the tropical rainforests with all sorts of living organisms being lost, but nobody realises we're actually losing vegetables in this country," Mrs Gear said. "Yet they're just as much an important genetic resource as any other species or group of living things.

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