Collecting the folklore and uses of plants


1.  In the countryside of Portugal to treat/cure a cold or sore throat use carrot slices left overnight with brown sugar [South London Botanical Institute, October 2017].

2.  Carrots improve night vision – a belief now widely held, dates back to World War II as a story put about by the security services to hide the existence of radar used by night fighters [Lichfield Wildlife Group, Staffordshire, September 2014].

3.  We were told to eat raw carrots to enable us to see in the dark. I believe that was a tale in the last World War, but we did it a lot here to try and improve our night vision as most of the village had no electricity until after the War [Muchelney, Somerset, January 2007].

4. Some of my reminiscences from the war years, 1939-46, when I would have been aged 7-13 and being cared for by my grandparents in Aberdeen.               I have had personal experience of the use of carrot for the cure of chilblains. In the early war years in the N.E. of Scotland we had a series of exceptionally cold and snowy winters, and we childrem were constantly suffering from chilblains, particularly on the toes. My grandmother (a native of the Aberdeen region, who was born in 1878) used a carrot based salve to treat these, which I had the impression had been handed down from her parents and was a commonly accepted treatment.
I cannot give you the precise recipe, but my recollection was that it involved either grated or crushed carrot made into a paste with suet or lard. This was applied liberally to the swollen chilblain and I know I believed it to be infallible in the relieving the itchiness and pain and bring the swelling down [Horley, Surrey, January 1999]

5.  My father’s cousin, a market gardener, said ‘Carrots sown in February never get carrot fly’ [Corbridge, Northumberland, February 1993].

6. Carrot poultice for sores and wounds [Larne, Co. Antrim, January 1992].

7. During the Second World War … there was a glut of carrots, so carrot jam, carrot flan, carrot this and carrot that was made. The airmen were fed carrots for it was supposed to help their sight and see in the dark!! [Didcot, Oxfordshire, February 1991].

Images:   main, Tooting, London Borough of Wandsworth, September 2014; upper inset, cultivated, St Fagans National Museum of History, Cardiff, September 2018; lower inset, British Ministry of Food Second World War poster.