An endangered species of pea grown by Charles Darwin in the mid 1800s has been saved from extinction by horticultural charity, Garden Organic, and its network of green-fingered ‘Seed Guardians’.

The so-called ‘Champion of England’ pea has now been registered on the National List by a seed supplier, meaning it can be sold commercially and enjoyed all over the world after its future was threatened decades ago.

Despite being judged as ‘best pea’ by The Journal of Horticulture in 1876 and being grown by Darwin himself in his garden, the variety fell out of favour in the 1970s when mechanised harvesting took over. The seed companies chose not to register Champion of England for commercial sale, putting it at risk of dying out completely.

Thankfully, Garden Organic’s Heritage Seed Library and its team of volunteer Seed Guardians have continued to grow endangered vegetables including Champion of England pea giving it the chance to be listed once more.

Rachel Crow, HSL information officer at Garden Organic, said: “For us, the ultimate accolade is for a seed company to say, ‘Yes, this is a really good pea and let’s get it back into circulation so even more people have the chance to grow it!'

“It’s a real thrill to see how our Heritage Seed Library is continuing to play a vital role in the preservation of our country’s genetic resource. We couldn’t do the work we do without our fantastic volunteer seed guardians who grow varieties with a low risk of cross-pollination and return the seed to us. This helps us to achieve Garden Organic’s wider ambition of protecting and sharing a wide plant gene pool and bringing organic gardening to more people across the country.”

Long serving seed guardian, Adam Alexander, who has helped to save the Champion of England pea and sixty other HSL varieties, said: “I think the Heritage Seed Library is the jewel in the crown of Garden Organic. It is incredibly important because it helps to secure the genetic diversity of our food and also preserves that crucial link culturally and socially with what has been grown in the past.”