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16401.  Tue Mar 22, 2005 3:57 pm Reply with quote

Flash wrote:
I feel that I should disclose that Mat writes Britain's only Marxist gardening column.

... and can thus confirm that the current orangeness of carrots is an inevitable outcome of the increasing monopolisation of the means of production distribution and exhange of carotene, notwithstanding the bonapartist opportunism of ultra-left micro-elements (continued on thread 94)

16430.  Wed Mar 23, 2005 5:52 am Reply with quote

Could be something in the “carrots that taste of chocolate” product, sold by Iceland. Although somewhere in the back of my head I thought it had been discussed in these parts before, I can’t find anything.

Anyway, here’s a link.

The CRC teamed up with frozen food manufacturer Iceland to develop a line of products called Wacky Veg aimed at fussy young eaters. The new line includes pizza-flavoured sweetcorn, cheese and onion-flavoured cauliflower, baked bean-flavoured peas and chocolate-flavoured carrots.

16443.  Wed Mar 23, 2005 7:28 am Reply with quote

Good - it hasn't been easy to find a segue from carrots to chocolate. The story's from 1997, though. I'll drop in to Iceland and see if they still stock this line.
Although the project has the blessing of the Cancer Research Campaign, from the parent's point of view it is a poor deal. Iceland's new chocolate-flavoured carrots are £1.15 for 450g, when you can buy three times as many pre-sliced carrots for 79p.

The Daily Telegraph 17/5/97, quoted at

16444.  Wed Mar 23, 2005 7:30 am Reply with quote

No need - the line was discontinued in December 1997.

16477.  Wed Mar 23, 2005 9:54 am Reply with quote

It's often rumoured (i.e. all over the internet) that Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, was allergic to carrots. This is apparently not the case (he merely hated them enough to say he was allergic). He did, however, have to chew them in recordings as no other vegetable had the right 'crunch'. He chewed them for a bit, and then spat them out into a bucket.

I'd like to get some kind of 'official' line on this from Warner...

17018.  Thu Mar 31, 2005 5:09 pm Reply with quote

I received this from a German friend today:
Question "Are Carrots good for your eyes ?"
Obvious answer: yes - (but clever dicks may say that they already know the
similar "fact" that spinach contains a lot of iron is false since this is
due to a comma being misplaced many years ago and the misconception remains)
Real "Quite Interesting" Answer: During the last war, the Germans wondered
why so many of their airplanes were being shot down. British intelligence
thereupon planted the rumour that this was due to the Brits getting lots of
carrots in the mess canteen. Whereupon the Germans changed their pilots'
diet. This had little effect since the real explanation why british guns
were more accurate was that the Brits had invented radar !

I had heard this before, but have no idea where it comes from. Anyone got any ideas?

17019.  Thu Mar 31, 2005 5:59 pm Reply with quote

The Allies, Germans, and Russians all had radar before the war… However, for the usual political reasons, only the Allies developed it for tactical use, building a network of radar stations blanketing the coast. Intel from several sources, including the radar net, was relayed “within minutes” to fighter squadrons. This rapid use of intel, combined with a tight command and control structure, is what tipped the balance in favour of the Allies during the Battle of Britain; radar was a relatively small component of this system.

Germany had better technology at the start of the war, but failed to capitalise:
Hitler and Göring disdained radar as a mainly defensive weapon. Besides, they harbored a deep mistrust of scientists and engineers. Interservice rivalries and the hidebound traditions of the officer corps also hampered progress. It was not until 1944 that an air defense system as effective as Dowding’s went into operation in Germany.

There are ironies in the situation, too. The Germans tried to determine the purpose of the giant radio towers on the British coast, but since German scientists had discounted HF as “useless for radar”, they never figured it out. On the other hand, the Allies lost far more planes than they should have during the late part of the war. The Germans had finally started using radar defensively, but the Brits continued to deny German radar capabilities, and sent unescorted bomber squadrons straight into German defensive radar …

The fact remains, however, that the whole carrot story was deliberate mis-information to protect the secret of the British use of radar…

However, this site: says, with quite a lot of corroborative detail, that the Germans actually had highly developed radar systems before the war, and used them extensively during it.

And this one: from a first-hand account by one Dennis Carey indicates the opposite story - that the carrot idea was put about to encourage the British population rather than to discourage the Germans.

But the standard version has its adherents:
Richard Bensinger, M.D., spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, says one reason British fighter pilots prevailed in The Battle of Britain was Britain had radar and Germany didn't. Radar allowed British pilots to know in advance where German fighter planes were going to attack.

"They knew the Germans would figure out Britain had radar, so they wanted to fool them," says Bensinger. "The British wrote articles in nutritional journals about how they fed pilots five pounds of carrots [carotene is good for eyes] a day, which improved their vision so well they could spot German planes coming."

The Brits knew German scientists scanned British journals carefully. "They read this stuff and said, ‘Aha! Now we know why British pilots were so effective,'" says Bensinger. "Then the poor German pilots had to eat all these carrots."

This amount of carotene is excessive to what the eyes need, so about all the Germans got out of this Bugs Bunny bit of bungling was orange skin.

The deception "held off the Germans a little while," says Bensinger. "It took them another year or so before they discovered radar was the reason British pilots were doing so well. It had nothing to do with carrots. That was very effective and probably altered the course of the war."

Others actually say that the credit given to carrots was justified:
Well, at the end of World War II, there were actually some German Nazi Generals who believed they lot the war…because of carrots. You see, late in World War II, the British had developed radar to detect incoming planes from Germany. That early warning gave enough time to get British and Allied planes into the air to intercept the German planes. The very early radar machines required absolute black rooms. Those tiny blips on the screen could barely be seen. To train the British and Allied soldiers to monitor these new Radar screens, the radar soldiers were put onto a strict diet of…carrots. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Carrots. And for snacks, carrots. To drink, carrot juice. After several months of carrots and training, these soldiers were ready for the black rooms of radar. And it worked. Germany’s air force was turned back, and the Allied victory became certain. Because of carrots. In 1949, the very first fighter jets were put into action in the U.S. military. The pilots in this F-80 program, had to have near perfect eyesight. These F-80 pilots also had a diet…of carrots. Lots of carrots and carrot juice. If the military knew the secret of carrots, then why can’t we simply eat more carrots? Come on people. Crunch your carrots…and save your vision.

But this, from the BBC, has the ring of truth: in 1940 Johnny Cunningham became the first pilot to shoot down an enemy aircraft using airborne radar.
A modest man, John Cunningham was fêted like a film star. Nicknamed Cats' Eyes - a sobriquet he never liked - his exceptional skill on the nocturnal battlefield was put down to eating carrots to improve his night vision.

This romantic, if rather naïve, explanation for his success, masked the reality. British scientists had secretly developed a sophisticated and formidable airborne radar system which allowed its pilots to home in on Luftwaffe bomber streams, often with devastating consequences.

So, based on 20-minutes' googling, it looks to me as though the story is: everyone had radar, but in 1940 only the Brits had an airborne version - this led to some nocturnal successes - so a popular notion (or, perhaps, joke?) spread in Britain, attributing superior abilities to RAF pilots because they ate more carrots - this story was supported by official sources because 1) it was good for morale and 2) it was a good way to promote the consumption of carrots, one of the few foods which there was plenty of.

17027.  Fri Apr 01, 2005 4:33 am Reply with quote

Been thinking about this overnight and now wonder: is it in fact possible in principle to boost night vision in this way?

The retina detects light via rods and cones. The cones detect detail and colour, but need plenty of light to function (like a 'slow' film emulsion). The rods have low acuity and can't distinguish colour at all but need less light (like a 'fast' emulsion) so are used for night vision. The rods work by virtue of something called rhodopsin (visual purple), an ingredient of which is vitamin A. Therefore a deficiency of vitamin A can lead to night blindness, and night blindness caused in this way can be treated with supplements or foods rich in Vitamin A (carotene) - this includes carrots, but also (better) apricots, dark-leaved vegetables such as spinach, and bilberries. However, two things:

1) this is about correcting defective night vision by correcting a vitamin deficiency; there is no basis for believing that you can enhance night vision beyond normal levels by taking an overdose of carotene, and

2) some sources indicate that the use of bilberries was the idea anecdotally identified by RAF pilots, but that systematic experimentation after the war failed to substantiate the claims made for the fruit.

17032.  Fri Apr 01, 2005 4:55 am Reply with quote

That sounds reasonable. There's no reason, of course, why it shouldn't be a 'combination solution' - good for morale, good for (maintaining, not imporoving) eyesight, good for misinformation... Even the tiniest advantage was milked to death during wartime.

17035.  Fri Apr 01, 2005 5:12 am Reply with quote

Yes, that seems a reasonable speculation to me. I was heartened by the fact that my mother remembers the story doing the rounds during the war.

17036.  Fri Apr 01, 2005 5:23 am Reply with quote

Slightly off topic, maybe one day carrots will go back to their roots and lose the orange colour:

Hot off the press:

He [Dr Leonard Pike] has also added various nutrients to carrots to see what color they would become, maroon, red or orange.

"The interest now is more than the color," said Pike. "Each of those colors indicates that a certain phytochemical is present. My goal is to get one carrot that has them all."

Phytochemicals are naturally occurring compounds that prevent disease. Pike hopes to pack lutein, carotene, anthocyanin and lycopene into one carrot, regardless of what color - or color combination - the carrot turns out to be. Each of those compounds has been shown to ward off various diseases and improve health.

Incidentally, has the old chestnut about the Province of Orange, from which William et al came, being in France (rather than Holland) ever come up?

17038.  Fri Apr 01, 2005 5:56 am Reply with quote

No - what's the skinny?

17039.  Fri Apr 01, 2005 6:08 am Reply with quote

Well I had to look up “What’s the skinny”, if you put it in google – it seems like that phrase is only ever used as a pun in diet stories or skin stories.

Anyway, as far as William of Orange goes, the slightly-interesting thing is that his moniker comes from the fact that his family held the small region of Orange in South France – whereas most people would assume it was in Holland. I’ve also read that he was born in Germany, although I will have to look it up. Will return shortly with sources.

17040.  Fri Apr 01, 2005 6:19 am Reply with quote

From, about Orange and its history.

Orange (Arenjo in Provençal) is a city in the département of Vaucluse, in the south of France. It has a population of about 26,000 people, with a primarily agricultural economy. It is located at 44°08N 4°48E, about 21 km north of Avignon.

The Baux counts of Orange became fully independent with the breakup of the Kingdom of Arles after 1033. From the 12th century, Orange was raised to a minor principality, as a fief of the Holy Roman Empire. When William I "the Silent", count of Nassau, with estates in the Netherlands, inherited the title Prince of Orange in 1544, the Principality was incorporated into the holdings of what became the "House of Orange." This pitched it into the Protestant side in the Wars of Religion, during which the town was badly damaged. In 1568 the Eighty Years War began with William as stadhouder leading the bid for independence from Spain. William the Silent was assassinated in Delft in 1584. It was his son, Maurice of Nassau (Prince of Orange after his elder brother died in 1618), with the help of Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, who solidified the independence of the Dutch republic. The United Provinces survived to become the Netherlands, which is still ruled by the House of Orange-Nassau. William, Prince of Orange, ruled England as William III of England. Orange gave its name to other Dutch-influenced parts of the world, such as the Orange Free State in South Africa.

Incidentally, Our William III was born in The Hague - I was getting confused with the original "William the Silent", who was German.

17061.  Fri Apr 01, 2005 3:11 pm Reply with quote

Children of War by Susan Goodman (John Murray, 2005) discusses government attempts to get people to eat carrots and spuds (the latter supported by Potato Pete, whose song ended: Potatoes whole, potatoes pied, Enjoy them all, including chips, Remembering spuds don’t come in ships!). Goodman continues: “Potatoes were one thing [...] however, most people did draw the line at the Ministry’s other bee in its bonnet: weird and fanciful uses for carrots [which included carrot marmalade] - or ‘Bright treasures dug from good British earth’, as it rather absurdly described them. Children were encouraged to believe that carrots had magic properties, including helping people see in the dark or blackout, for which purpose they were devoured by night-fighter pilots - which was definitely not the case. [...] the Ministry’s 1941 recipe for ‘Carrot Flan ... reminds you of Apricot Flan - but has a deliciousness all of its own’ met with a resounding thumbs down.”

This sounds the likeliest origin of the story, I think - that it was propaganda aimed at children, not at German spies. (On behalf of allotmenteers everywhere, though, I must say that the Ministry had it dead right about the “bright jewels.”)


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