Carrot and stick quiz

Last updated 30 November 2023

True or false?

  1. Eating a large amount of carrots improves night vision.
  2. Eating a large amount of carrots causes skin to turn yellow.
  3. Carrots were historically always orange, but purple varieties have become available in recent years.

(1) is false. Although carrots contain vitamin A, which is important for supporting normal vision, the urban legend that it improves night vision started with World War II propaganda. New radar technology enabled British RAF pilots to repel German fighter planes during complete darkness. Not wanting the Germans to know about the technology, the British government circulated the story that the pilots’ success was due to a high level of carrot consumption.

(2) is true. It’s called carotenemia. But it happens only if carrot intake is excessive, and it can be reversed by reducing carrot intake. It’s harmless — unless misdiagnosed as jaundice and treated as such.

(3) is false. In the West, carrots were cultivated in several colours, including purple, until the 17th century, when Dutch carrot growers started mass-producing orange ones. A popular story is that this was done to honour the House of Orange (the Dutch royal family). However, this is not known for certain; it could be that the business case came first and the royal marketing message followed. Purple carrots made a comeback in recent years as a result of the work of a geneticist at the US Department of Agriculture, Dr. Philipp Simon. He sequenced the carrot genome to find out more about the differences between varieties in terms of disease resistance and nutrition. When carrot breeders became aware of this work, they saw the advantages of cultivating and marketing purple carrots.

The bottom line is that all carrots are nutritious but the purple ones additionally contain anthocyanins, which are antioxidants.

How to prepare carrots? Of course, you can simply boil them. But if you want to try something different, mash up boiled carrots with other mashed vegetables and other random ingredients to make a monster mash. Or eat them raw, after slicing into sticks.