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Did rationing make people more intelligent? The Carrot is an economically important horticultural crop that has gained popularity since world War Two due to increased awareness of its nutritional value and versatility. The imposition of food rationing brought severe shortages and the UK Government looked for alternatives. In parallel the Agriculture Ministry encouraged increased commercial production of carrots, through various incentives. During the 6 years of World War Two the UK Ministry of Food did its best to drum up enthusiasm for carrots as a substitute for rationed goods.
Doctor Carrot, carrying a bag marked ” Vit A”, was prominently featured on pages of recipe books and extensive advertising campaigns in the press, cinema and on the radio. World war Two revived the popularity of the carrot and gave it a rightful place in the kitchen, elevated to a new high as a major food and nutritional source. Carrots were truly one of the foods that helped win the war. People experienced culinary delights such as curried carrot, carrot jam, carrot puddings and a homemade drink called Carrolade. Most of these “delicacies” were nothing new and items such as cakes, puddings and jam had been enjoyed throughout Europe since the Middle Ages. Keeping a nation fed on wartime rations took remarkable ingenuity and a very strong stomach.
Carrots also played a small part in winning the air battle. Famously, the UK Food Ministry responded to a temporary wartime oversupply of carrots by suggesting, through propaganda, that the RAF’s exceptional night-flying and target success, was due to eating high carotene content carrots. The full story of the “See in the Dark” Campaign and the alleged “myths” surrounding this issue are discussed in detail, with definitive answers on a separate page – here. Food, and in particular the lack of it, was central to the experience of the Second World War. By 1941 the German blockade of food supply ships created food shortages had made things very difficult and the phrase “The Kitchen Front” came into use.
It encouraged housewives to feel they were contributing to the war effort by cooking wisely and not wasting food. The British population emerged healthier than it had ever been before, and families had been educated in putting nutritional, frugal meals on their tables. In many ways, it was home economics that would win the war. Every extra row of vegetables in allotments saves shipping the battle on the kitchen front cannot be won without help from the kitchen garden. Isn’t an hour in the garden better than an hour in the queue?
There used to be a joke about only donkeys eating carrots. Now it seems we shall all be donkeys if we don’t. Cut them up, the older they are the finer you cut them, and put them on to simmer in a pot with a little margarine or good dripping. Lift them during dry weather, not later than the middle of October.
Reject all blemished carrots and all damaged or forked roots. It is not necessary to clean them, but be careful to see they are quite dry. If you cannot get sand, earth, taken from the top of the ground, shaken through a very fine sieve and slightly moistened, is the best substitute. Put over it a layer of straw as a safeguard against frost. The carrots should be stored crown to tail in rows.
Take a look at the short film “Easter on the Home front 1941” – where British Pathé took it upon themselves to suggest war-time holiday alternatives to the British public. While much of the credit for the campaign went to Lord Woolton, the Minister of Food from 1940 to 1943, Professor John Raeburn ran it until the end of the war and was responsible for its continuing success. The Ministry issued many cooking leaflets, often dedicated to specific topics such as the magic of carrots. The language used was practical, and realistic for the time — in listing ingredients for suggested recipes, the government leaflets would often say beside an ingredient such as butter: “if possible. Cooking demonstrations by women such as Marguerite Patten were held in many stores, including Harrods. BBC Radio ran a morning radio programme called “Kitchen Front”, broadcast from studios in Oxford Street, London. Carrots were a relatively cheap foodstuff and not rationed.
There was a free market for carrots until the end of October 1941. After that time the Government took over the sole purchase of “all sound marketable carrots fit for human consumption, grown on holdings of one acre and above”. The price was fixed, nationwide, excluding the cost of bags. The selling prices was however were strictly controlled by government orders. Retailers were also required, by law, to maintain accurate records of where they had purchased any carrots from the weight and at what price. There were also strict controls over the weighing of carrots to ensure “no extraneous matter” was included in the weight i.
Carrots Help you See in the Dark” was a popular saying at the time and people eagerly tucked in to carrots, believing this would help them to see more clearly in the blackout. This suggestion not only helped reduce the surplus vegetables but also helped, in a small way, to mask the chief reason for the RAF’s success in night time air battles – the increasing power of radar and the secret introduction of an airborne version of the system. It is true that carrots can help keep your eyes healthy and if you are otherwise deficient in Vitamin A, will help you see better in the dark by aiding optimum night vision and defeating night blindness. So, if you don’t get enough carotene or Vitamin A in your diet, eventually you will suffer problems in your vision.
Ministry of information used the campaign to put the Germans off the scent of the discovery of air borne radar and did some experiments with the effect of consumption carrots with high carotene content. The full story of the “See in the Dark” Campaign is on a separate page – here. The Ministry of Food promoted carrots heavily as a substitute for other less readily available vegetables, fruit and other commodities. To improve its image of blandness, people were encouraged to enjoy the healthy carrot in different ways by promoting various recipes never tried before, such as curried carrot and carrot jam. A little more on the surplus here. People were encouraged to enjoy the healthy carrot in different ways by the introduction of Dr Carrot in a series of magazine articles and posters.