by Aly Findlay
Carrots are most often associated with three things: carrot cake, Bugs Bunny, and the ability to see in the dark. So, where did that last one come from and is there any truth to it?
The short love affair between marketing and carrots began in 1941 with the British government’s ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign. Designed by Disney, it featured ‘Dr. Carrot’ and aimed to encourage people to eat more veg in an effort to support the war effort. Perhaps coincidentally, over the pond Bugs Bunny was born around the same time.
Carrots weren’t rationed, so — according to Smithsonian Magazine (an apparent authority on the history of carrots) — The Ministry of Food provided a plethora of inspiration in the kitchen, including carrot cakes, puddings, marmalades, fudge and flan. Even “Carrolade” was a thing. This campaign was so successful that by 1942 Britain was swimming in carrots: we had a 10,000-ton surplus.
It is thought that the infamous line about carrots — that they help us see in the dark — dates back to the propaganda that was designed to mop up the surplus. But it also had another purpose. Britain had developed radars to allow us to intercept night raids and, in an attempt to keep this a secret, the Air Ministry issued a press release announcing that their pilots were eating lots of carrots to boost their night vision. It seems that everyone, German and British alike, bought it.
Interestingly, though, carrots may actually play a role in helping us see more clearly at night.
Yes they can play a role in your ability to see in darkness. Carrots contain Vitamin A (AKA retinol) in the form of beta carotene, which is good for eye health in general. However, more than this, a Vitamin A deficiency can result in a condition called nictalopia (or night blindness). Carrots — or more specifically the Vitamin A that is found in carrots — is known to reverse this. But, sadly, there is no evidence to say that carrots will give you superhuman night vision.
Raw: On their own, as a vehicle for delicious dips or a colourful addition to a salad, raw carrots are delicious.
Juiced: Add some carrots to a smoothie or juice them along with apple and ginger for a refreshing and nutritious juice.
Steamed: A great accompaniment to a Sunday roast or a pie; cook until tender, not soft.
Roasted: Whole and foil-wrapped, or chopped and added to a tray of mixed veg, carrots caramelize beautifully in the oven.
Stir-fried: Sliced and tossed into a stir fry, carrots add a lovely crunch and sweetness and work really well with soy sauce.