World Carrot Museum - Carrots in World War Two

Carrots in World War Two

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Carrot History - Carrots in the Second World War

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Chapters in the other history rooms:


 History Part 1 - A Brief Timeline


 History Part 2 - Neolithic to AD 200 - Origins and development


 History Part 3 - AD 200 to 1500 - From Medicine to Food


 History Part 4 - 1500 to 1700 - Evolution and Improvement in the Renaissance


 History Part 5 - 1700 to 1900 - Science & Enlightenment - the modern carrot evolves


 History Part 6 - 1900 to date - The Modern Carrot and Genetic Discovery


 History of Carrot Colour - The road to domestication and the origin of Orange Carrots


 History in WW2 - Takes an in depth look of the role of carrots in World War Two, reviving its popularity


 Illustrations of Carrot in Ancient Manuscripts and Early Printed Books

Main Sections: War time Britain - Woolton pie - Surplus carrots - Dr Carrot - Disney Characters - Carrot Lollies

Dig for Victory - US Gardens - War Recipes - Radar+Carrots Night blindness - Did rationing make people more intelligent? WW1 here

Land at War – the official story of British farming 1939-44, prepared by the Ministry of Information stated

"No weapon ever invented is more deadly than hunger; it can spike guns, destroy courage, and break the will of the most resolute peoples. The finest armies in the world, courageous enough in the face of bombs or bullets, can be reduced by it to helplessness and surrender."

Britain's ingenuity in the wartime extended to the kitchen, and there's no better example of this than the humble carrot.

The Second World War had a huge impact on how millions of British people cooked and ate. Food was ‘a munition of war’, a vital fuel to keep the population going.

With imports hit hard by the attacks on shipping convoys, compromises were made to get Britain as far as possible towards self-sufficiency. Food was never wasted; alternate ingredients were constantly tried out. The Carrot was a classic example of this!

The ubiquitous carrot was used widely a sweetener as well as a vegetable staple, and was promoted for its health benefits – leading to the ‘Doctor Carrot’ character details of which are given later.

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. Orange carrots are highly revered as “good for the eyes” due to their high content of hydrocarbon carotenoids, a class of phytochemicals that are often precursors to vitamin A. α- and β-Carotene predominate in orange carrots.

The imposition of food rationing brought severe shortages and the UK Government looked for alternatives. Enter the carrot. TheWar Time Cookery Leaflet - Carrots government's Food Ministry produced lots of information on how carrots could be used as a viable substitute for non-available/restricted goods.  In parallel the Agriculture Ministry encouraged increased commercial production of carrots, through various incentives. This was very successful leading to a surplus of carrots in early 1942.  Main Ministry of Food Carrot Leaflet (right) - click on image for separate page about the carrot publicity material used in WW2.

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 also feature during World War II as a secret code message was broadcast by the BBC French language service to tell the French resistance of the upcoming invasion of Normandy on D Day - (“les carottes sont cuites, je répète, les carottes sont cuites” = “The carrots are cooked, I repeat, the carrots are cooked!”). The resistance fighters were preparing themselves to sabotage railway lines and telephone exchanges.

At 0915 on June 4th 1944 Radio London broadcast several messages, that to the casual listener seemed nonsensical.  In fact the term is an old French turn of phrase. When making a stew, the carrots are said to be the last vegetables to be cooked. So when the carrots are already cooked, it’s game over, no more additional action can be done - no turning back. The next day 24000 soldiers of the allied forces waded into French Normandy and, in an epic battle, liberated it from the Nazi stronghold.

Some WW2 Imagery

Doctor Carrot Guards your health poster

carrot lollies ww2

carroty george walt disney ww2

Dr Carrot Poster (more here)

Carrot Lollies (more here)

Walt Disney's Carroty George

Carrots were truly one of the foods that helped win the war. People experienced culinary delights sww2 food facts advertuch 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 suggestion worked and the consumption of carrots increased sharply because people thought carrots might help them see better in the blackout, thus taking the pressure off other food supplies.

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.

During the Second World War (1939-45) 
Food, and in particular the lack of it, was central to the experience of the Second World War. Carrots were one vegetable which was in plentiful supply and as a result were widely-utilised as a substitute for scarce foodFront of Kitchen Front Recipe Book WW2stuffs and used in several "mock" recipes. It was also a major ingredient of the Campaign called Dig for Victory, which was extensively publicised with songs and posters featuring Dr Carrot and Potato Pete. It was run for most of the war by Professor John Raeburn, a respected agricultural economist, who joined the Ministry of Food in 1939 as a statistician and two years later was appointed to lead the Agricultural Plans Branch. See the US Dig for Victory posters here.

Read what advice the US Government gave to its citizens in 1944 - here.

Before the war, Britain imported 70% of its food; this required 20 million tons of shipping a year. 50% of meat was imported, 70% of cheese and sugar, 80% of fruits, 70% of cereals and fats, 91% of butter. Knowing this would lead the Axis powers into hoping to starve the British population into submission, by cutting off those food supply lines.

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. 

Some contemporary quotes:

"This is a food 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?" (Lord Woolton, Minister of Food, 1941)

"There used to be a joke about only donkeys eating carrots. Now it seems we shall all be donkeys if we don't." Kitchen Front broadcast 7 January 1941

"The Kitchen Front" - DuringListen to the Kitchen Front advert WW2 the Second World War, millions of people listened to an early morning five-minute BBC radio programme. With the assistance of domestic science teachers, dieticians, school-meal-organisers and hospital caterers, the Public Relations Division of the Ministry of Food gave the public lasting guidance about new food sources and creative recipes for items which were not rationed. It also gave advice to people about the healthiest way to feed themselves and to make the best use of their rations.

"From the Kitchen Front" was broadcast on BBC Radio Home Service (now radio 4) every morning for 5 minutes, and a few of these radio broadcast scripts relating carrot items have been transcribed from the archives -
Transcripts of radio broadcasts on carrots here (pdfs)     Gert and Daisy broadcast here (Youtube).

On 7 September 1940 the Kitchen Front offered this advice on cooking carrots:

“I have told you about the Aunt of mine who is the mother of all culinary secrets – well she listened to my talk to you on the value of simmering in which I mentioned carrots. She immediately said – you didn’t tell them that there is only one way of cooking carrots. 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., a little sugar and salt and no water at all. Simmer them with the lid tight on for an hour and half. You should never really ever cook them any other way!”
On 29 September 1941 the Kitchen Front gave more advice - To make a jam filling, in cakes or sandwiches, go further I am advising people to mix with the jam an equal quantity of carrots cooked and mashed – or better still raw and grated. There’s plenty of sugar in carrots.  For a new flavour try adding a little cocoa sometimes

On 5 September it was advice on Carrots Storage:

HOW TO STORE CARROTS. The secret of storing carrots is in lifting them (pulling thCarrot Clamp for storageem up) in good condition. 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. You will need a dry shed for your storing, if possible with a stone or concrete floor, and some slightly moist sand.  (Image right is reproduced courtesy of the excellent website "Join me in the 1900's'" - here)

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. Lay alternate rows of carrots and sand (or earth), either on the ground, in a pyramid shape, or in boxes. Cover your pyramid or box with sand (or earth). Put over it a layer of straw as a safeguard against frost. The carrots should be stored crown to tail in rows. Use the carrots as you require them, but take care that the remaining pile is always well covered. It is a wise plan to rebuild your pyramid at least once during the winter.

"Easter on the Home front 1941" - Take a look at the short film  - where British Pathé took it upon themselves to suggest war-time holiday alternatives to the British public. check out the film on Youtube showing the famous carrot lollies HERE


Examples of Original WW2 Posters (right is from US NARA)

ww2 poster showing dr carrot

ww2 poster night vision NARA 515071.jpg  1 Jan 1941


ww2 poster off the ration

World War Two WW2 See in the Dark Poster

Image above right - ©Art.IWM PST 6015

Published in accordance with  the IWM Non-Commercial Licence for the private and non-commercial use. Contact Imperial War Museum - for further information and permissions to use this image..

image: a woman crossing the road in front of a car during the blackout. She carries a shopping basket and is accompanied by a small child.

While much of the credit for the campaign went to Lord Woolton, the Minister of Food froww2 newspaper advert carrots raw or cookedm 1940 to 1943,  Professor John Raeburn ran it until the end of the war and was responsible for its continuing success. At one point there was a glut of carrots, and the Government let it be known that carotene, which can actually to help night vision (if you are otherwise deficient in Vitamin A), was largely responsible for the RAF's increasing success in shooting down enemy bombers.

Read more about Lord Woolton and his famous (if not that tasty) pie,  here

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. Educational short movies on cooking were made for showing at cinemas; BBC Radio ran a morning radio programme called "Kitchen Front", broadcast from studios in Oxford Street, London.

They even came up with a recipe using carrot tops (the leaves) - Carrot Top and Potato soup. See extract here.

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. (source Ministry of Agriculture archives, March, 1941 - National Archives UK).

In 1941 they cost an average of 2 (pre-decimal) pence a pound, retail. The selling prices was however were strictly controlled by government orders. For example in 1942 the Ministry issued the "Emergency Powers Defence (Food) Carrots Order" which dictated that retailers or any description had to display the maximum selling price at all times - maximum price was then 3 1/2 pence per pound. (2 pence a pound by 1943) The maximum price a grower could sell to a retailer was 9 shilling and 3 pence per hundredweight (plus delivery charge). - extract here:

ww2 carrots food order

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.e. soil or green material. source: Ministry of Food archives, 1941, National Archives UK)

The main carrot varieties grown during the war, in the UK, were Nantes, Chantenay, Marshall’s Red Heart, Early Scarlet Horn, Altringham (long), Demi-longue a forcer, James Scarlet Intermediate (maincrop), Long Red Surrey (St Valery) Primo (early) Selected (maincrop). (source Gardenorganic, UK)

"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.

It is true that the RAF/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.

Note: Carrots cannot improve your eyesight  -  even “Dr. Carrot” was depicted wearing glasses. 

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. They even promoted the use of carrot tops (the leaves) in a recipe called Champ (a meal for six for a shilling) and Carrot Top and Potato Soup.  (These can be found in the  World War Two page here (see the transcript on the carrot Tops page here)  .

This secret reports on the Food Situation in 1941 clearly found that the campaign was working (perhaps too well - see right) -

February 1941

December 1941

ww2 archive material - fresh vegetables ww2 archive 1941 food situation

 A little more on the surplus here.

The Ministry of Food produced several informative cookery leaflets including one specifically dedicated to carrots  (see official carrot cookery leaflet 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. A transcript of the actual broadcast about Carrots is here (pdf).

Every morning at 8.15 on the Home Service (UK radio 4) there was a Kitchen Front broadcast giving useful tidr carrot ww2ps about using food in different ways, substitute ingredients and recipes. 

Carrot Competition - Carrots and potatoes featured regularly in the broadcasts, so much so, that on 18 December 1941 they announced a Carrot Competition where the public were to enter to show off their ingenuity and submit ideas,  not only for use as a vegetable but also in jelly, cakes and confectionary. The concept was to give the Ministry of Food's experimental kitchen some new ideas for inclusion in  its leaflets, for free, and to make people feel part of the effort.

The winner was a Mrs Casey from Palmers Green with "Carrot Savoury Pudding."  There was no prize - it was war time! but Mrs Casey did receive the standard BBC Guest broadcast fee as a thank you.  The winner was announced as the headline for the Kitchen Front broadcast made on 24 January 1942 -

 “Carrot Competition Winner Announced”. The Ministry of Food, emerging from behind the mountain of entries they have received for this competition, have just decided that the winning entry came from Mrs Marjorie Casey, 131 Connaught Gardens, Palmers green. The recipe is for “Carrot Savoury Pudding” and was endorsed by everyone judging – and even endorsed by a dismal visitor who has previously stated: “if you mention carrot to me again – I shall scream.”

See the transcript of the interview with Mrs Casey here (pdf)

Here is the simple recipe - make a suet pudding mixture, but before moistening add 2lbs of chopped up carrots. Now cut in small pieces 2 sticks of celery, half an onion or a leek, and half a turnip. And if you have any small left-over pieces of cooked meat, put these in too. Then add a tablespoonful of mixed herbs, and two tablespoons of chopped parsley, salt and pepper. Moisten in the usual way and steam for 2 ½ hours. Then serve with a good brown gravy, mashed potato and green vegetable.

Coincidentally this recipe (shown below)  appeared in a subsequent Ministry leaflet No 4 Carrots,  and is believed to be it based on Mrs Casey's winner.

Carrot Competition Winner WW2

The slogan "Carrots keep you healthy and help you see in the blackout" was used extensively. Advert (below left) from the UK Times, 6 February,1942.

ww2 advert eyes in the blackout

Some war time recipes promoted by the Ministry of Food are also detailed below - click here.

There was even a homemade drink called Carrolade, made up from the juices of carrots and Swede (Rutabaga) grated and squeezed through a piece of muslin, clearly no one thought of just plain carrot juice!.  Modern recipe here.

Other culinary uses included carrot jam,  marmalade and toffee carrots. The humble carrot, previously thought to be only good for animal feed had been elevated to a new high and set in motion started its rightful return to one of the countries favourite vegetables. Read more about jam here

Also during the war many thousands of tons of carrots were dehydrated and shipped overseas in sealed metal containers in an atmosphere of carbon dioxide or nitrogen to prevent loss of carotene.

The Ministry of Food campaign to encourage people to eat more vegetables resulted in the promotion of Woolton Pie, composed entirely of vegetables. Potato, Carrot and Swede (rutabaga) provided the basic ingredients, with onion and cauliflower added when available. Lord Woolton was the Minister of Food from April 1940.

The recipe was the creation of Francis Latry, the chef of the Savoy hotel, and named after Lord Woolton.  Many people had their own interpretation of this recipe, but they always used carrots! Basically it is mixed vegetables, a sauce and a topping , which could be pastry or potatoes mashed or sliced.  Potato Pete's recipe book, on line here.

Image  right - Published in accordance with  the IWM Non-Commercial Licence for the private and non-commercial use. Contact Imperial War Museum - for further information and permissions to use this image..



ww2 advert radio doctor - carrots

World War Two WW2 See in the Dark Poster

©Art.IWM PST 6015

The Official Woolton Pie Recipe as reported in The Times 26 April 1941:

INGREDIENTS Woolton Pie World War Two Dish with carrots

Take 1Ib each of diced potatoes, cauliflower, swedes (rutabaga) and carrots;
Three or Four spring onions;
One teaspoonful of vegetable extract and
One teaspoonful of oatmeal.


Cook all together for ten minutes with just enough water to cover.
Stir occasionally to prevent the mixture from sticking.
Allow to cool; put into a pie dish, sprinkle with chopped parsley and cover with a crust of potatoes or wholemeal pastry.
Bake in a moderate oven until the pastry is nicely brown and serve hot with brown gravy.

A recipe for “War Cake” found in an anonymous cookbook from the 1940s in the New-York Historical Society Library’s Manuscript collection. It boasts: “no butter, no eggs, no milk, delicious.” world war two carrot cake - usaImage courtesy of New-York Historical Society Library's Manuscript collection.

Recipe for “War Cake”

2 cups castor sugar

2 cups hot water

2 Tbsp lard

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon cloves

1 package seedless raisins.

Boil all together. After cold, add 2 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in 1 teaspoon hot water. Bake about one hour in a slow oven (300-325°F).

There were of course many variations on this basic recipe, depending on which ingredients were available and ww2 advert guardians of healthaccounting for personal taste.

The Main Vegetables which The Kitchen Front promoted were given extra status (image right)

The Kitchen Front Broadcast in 1941 by the Ministry of Food gave this, more detailed version:
(transcribed by the World Carrot Museum from the original script of the actual broadcast - (source National Archives UK))

Kitchen Front - Woolton Pie Recipe

"1 lb King Edward Potatoes; 2lb Carrots; 1/2 lb mushrooms; 2 spring onions; 1 leek; 2oz margarine/chicken fat; salt/pepper, nutmeg & chopped parsley.

Peel potatoes and carrots and cut into slices the size of a large penny. wash them well and dry on a dish cloth. Fry them separately in a small amount of chicken fat.  Do the same with the mushrooms, adding the sliced onions and leek. Mix them all together, season with salt and pepper, nutmeg and coarsely chopped parsley.

Fill the pie dish with the mixture, placing the bouquet garni in the middle. Moisten with a little giblet stock or water.  Let it cool before covering with  pastry made with half beef suet or chicken fat and half margarine.

Cook for hour and a half in a moderate oven."

 Read more detail about the famous Woolton Pie, and the man - click here.

carrot cigarettes 1948CARROT CIGARETTES! yes - The Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate (New South Wales), Saturday 15 May 1948

"Why moan about tobacco rationing. Cigarettes which cost him Id. for 20 comes from the carrot and other leaves that Dr. &. A. Harrison, chemical pathologist to St. Bartholomew's Hospital, gathers in a garden. Carrot leaves make excellent cigarettes and he has smoked many a pipe of them too, says Dr Harrison."


"Doctor Carrot" arrived in November 1941. The Ministry of Agriculture promoted carrots heavily as a substitute for other more scarce vegetables and meat, anDr Carrot Arrives - The Children's Best Friendd as a sweetener in desserts in the absence of sugar, which was rationed to 8 ounces per adult per week. The Dr. Carrot character carried a bag labelled "Vit A" as the Ministry of Food recognised the value of the carrot in providing high levels of this vital vitamin, via beta-carotene. People were encouraged to "take the doctor's advice" and eat more carrots to be fit for the ensuing winter. It was reported that the shortage of batteries would no longer be a concern as people would "develop cats eyes" and see better in the dark. Carrot were considered to be the most important of vegetables from a health point of view and it was hoped that Dr Carrot would carry out his mission as successfully as Potato Pete did for the potato. (source: Ministry of Food archives, 1941, National Archives UK)

In February 1941 the Minister of Food gave his monthly report on the food situation in the UK and stated "That the consumption of carrots has increased following the Ministry's publicity campaigns.  Supplies are still ample." (source: National Archives, Cabinet papers)

In wartime Britain children would very often use the humble carrot as a substitute for the fruit they could no longer obtain. Similarly the Government also issued a poster with the slogan 'Carrots keep you healthy and help you see in the blackout' to promote the humble carrot.

dr carrot advert ww2

dr carrot advert ww2

dr carrot advert ww2

dr carrot advert ww2

Doctor Carrot


dr carrot advert ww2

Potato Pete had been previously introduced to encourage potato substitution for other commodities. The Ministry of Food were so impressed with the success of Potato Pete that Dr Carrot soon followed. No one knows who actually invented Dr Carrot or who drew the cartoon. Nonetheless he was a tremendous success.

Sweets (candy) were scarce so children had to make do with whatever their inventive mums came up with. As ever the Ministry of Food came to their aid.  This wartime recipe for carrot fudge (below) sounds really weird. Why not print it out and give it a try? You'll need a bit of grown-up help with the cooking. See if your friends can guess what it's made of and let us know how it tastes.  More ingenious uses for the surplus of carrots below.

World War Two Archive Photos (UK)

ww2 advert disney characters

Carrots Lollies - image source here

Carrot Sign - image source here

ww2 carrot lollies

ww2 carrot lollies

Official Ministry of Food Leaflet on Carrots Adults enjoy lollies too!

Ministry of Food Carrot Leaflet

ww2 carrot lollies adult

Cropping carrots in a Dig for Victory Garden An old hand shows the kids how to plant carrots (1941).


The carrot creativity even hit the New Zealand press in 1941

ww2 archive photo


A Surplus of Carrots!Ministry of Food Carrots Leaflet - (Source: National Archives records, inspected September 2011 & September 2013))

The Ministry of Food encouraged so much extra production that, by January 1942, it was looking for a market for the 100,000 tons of carrots that were surplus to consumers' requirements even at a time when green vegetables were not too plentiful and were expensive in the shops. Such was the success of the domestic agriculture reorganisation, that the crop was 3 times bigger than any in living memory!   There was no regulation of the type of carrots to grow and most stayed with a reliable favourite - Nantes type whilst others preferred James Intermediate, depending on soil conditions.

The surplus tonnage, which was "no more than a provident margin in wartime" was offered to farmers for stock feeding at less than half the price guaranteed to the growers.  Famously, the Government responded to a temporary wartime oversupply of carrots by suggesting that the RAF's exceptional night-flying was due to eating carotene. The ruse worked (and was in certain circumstances true!): consumption of carrots increased sharply because people thought carrots might help them see in the blackout, thus taking the pressure off other food supplies. read more about night vision here.

In an attempt to prevent malpractice the carrots sold for stock feeding were sprayed with a violet dye, before delivery (in the same way as the surplus potatoes sold for stock feeding at the end of 1940).  Carrots made good food for dairy cows, horses. fattening bullocks, and pigs, and if there were more carrots in the country than human consumers could take, it was right that they should be used for stock-feeding.

The Daily Mirror in January 1942 ran with this piece -

 ww2 advert how to get rich on carrots

This dye was harmless to animals, and therefore probably ok for humans, and no doubt many found their way into the food chain via the black market economy, which was rife at the time.

So in a bizarre way purple carrots were around in the 40's !

Companies were coming forward all the time with creative ideas to help out the Ministry of Food. Here is an extract from correspondence from the Delma Canning Company in 1943:

ww2 archive ton of carrots

The Ministry archive papers also pointed out that the above processes could utilise sub-standard carrots previously "wasted" in their use as animal fodder.  The "treacle" referred to was apparently well liked by children as it was so sweet. It was estimated that one ton of carrots produced 1 hundredweight of treacle and that the company promoting its production claimed that it "was a better use than mere cattle fodder".

There was considerable debate in the Ministry of Food about the true motives of the company promoting the production of treacle as this extract from a Ministry Committee from December 1943 shows

The firm claimed to be able to extract 150 grammes (about 6 ozs.) of Vitamin A from every ton of carrots, this being about fifteen times the highest quantity which people with the best scientific equipment have been able to obtain. I should, therefore, require considerable evidence before was prepared to accept this claim at its race value. So far from being given any evidence, the staff were particularly secretive and refused to give any information at all.


I gather that this firm has processed surplus carrots in the past and obtained carrot treacle, which has been sold as artificial honey probably at a high price, and also pectin, probably sold to jam manufacturers. You will see that the firm has, therefore, done considerable business in products to be obtained from carrots. Since the suggested vitamin process would only take 6 ozs. out of each ton of carrots, one naturally wonders what is to become of the remaining 19 cwts. 111 lbs. 10 ozs.


The answer is obvious - that it will be used to manufacture carrot treacle and pectin, which will be sold by this firm as it has been before. I am very suspicious of the firm's claim to be able to manufacture Vitamin A, and even if their claim were substantiated I would still regard vitamin manufacture as a by-product rather than the main object of the Company. My feeling was that this was being used as an excuse to obtain carrots for treacle and pectin manufacture which, without this excuse, they would be unable to obtain. Finally, even if their claims were genuine, there is no reason why they should not employ broken carrots, as these would be quite suitable for their purpose except that they would require more trouble in washing and additional labour in trimming.  I would strongly resist this demand for sound carrot unless the supply is particularly abundant." source National Archives

It was reported to the Ministry of Food in 1941 that "There had been a marked improvement in the general character of the diet. There will be a natural tendency for people to eat fewer carrots unless the publicity campaign is carried out with considerable effort. Fortunately a strong appeal can be made to the public to eat carrots as a healthful food."

The Ministry also explored the possibility of manufacturing carrot powder and a carrot spread, similar to margarine, as ways of effectively using the surplus. Breakfast Food and Powder - it was claimed by the manufacturer, Sun-o-Like Co Ltd, that one pound of the product contained the equivalent of one pound of carrots and the corresponding carotene content.  After exploring many options the conclusion was that any surplus remaining after increased public consumption would be passed over to the Ministry of Agriculture as raw roots for the feeding of livestock. 

People were encouraged to use Carrot tops (the leaves) too! -   Carrot tops had other uses: They even promoted the use of carrot tops (the leaves) in a recipe called Champ (a meal for six for a shilling) and Carrot Top and Potato Soup.  (These can be found in the  World War Two page here (see the transcript on the carrot Tops page here)  .They were also fed to the rabbits that many people kept in their back gardens for free and off-ration meat.

Here are some more contemporary ingenious uses for the surplus of carrots:

Concentrated juice as "honey"; drying carrots for cattle feed in future years and the preparation of pectin.

A further suggestion was that carrots could used to manufacture vitamin preparations for post-war relief. The Red Cross had proposed Vitaminised chocolate, and by margarine producers who would otherwise be using a Vitamin A concentrate.

In 1943, the Ministry of Food discussed the options for using carotene obtained from carrots in "Vitaminised chocolate", which would help with the surplus of carrots prevailing at that time.  (correspondence extract late1943)

ww2 archive vitaminised chocolate


Having re-examined the statistics the Committee considered that

“There would be no supplies of carrots available for the purposes proposed as the 1943 yield was much lower than in recent years, and the supply of carrots would fall short of normal human consumption, adding that the acreage was about 21,000 compared to the estimated requirement  of 33,000 acres for 1944."

An early suggestion for the manufacture of carrot juice was also a suggestion which was not pursued. The Ministry's official response was that "Carrot juice is of relatively low vitamin value (!) and when concentrated to a syrup has no greater food value than that of the sugar it contains".  Subsequently the question of juice was back on the agenda, following information on what the US was doing in that area (November 1941):

ww2 archives - carrot juice

Carrot Treacle was also an option to reduce the surplus (January 1942):

ww2 archive carrot treacle

The Committee finally deliberated:

ww2 carrot surplus

The Carrot Flan - quite an innovation at the time. This is one of a series of meals developed by the Ministry of Food to encourage people to make the best use of available home-grown produce. Recipe here. A product called "Pommace" was also examined, not only to use up carrots but also to make best use of cider making machinery! (January 1942)

World War Two Carrot Flan

ww2 archive carrot pomace

Pommace is a by product of cider production. In the Middle Ages, pommace wine with a low alcohol content of three or four percent was widely available. This faux wine was made by adding water to pommace and then fermenting it. Generally, medieval wines were not fermented to dryness; consequently the pommace would retain some residual sugar after fermenting.

I do not think the government realised they were contemplating an alcoholic drink!

ww2 advert  - carrot quick change artist

call in vegetables ww2

The Ministry of Food was always trying to jazz up the image of carrot (see above advert, church Times, January 1942), and full of useful advice like this:  - "Don’t pare, cut or chop vegetables until just before using them. Make salads, and add dressing, immediately prior to eating to protect them from the air. Never soak vegetables – water is an enemy of many vitamins.

Valuable nutrients are near the skin. Cut carrots lengthwise. their cells are long and less of the nutrient qualities will escape in the cooking water."

Toffee Carrots WW2

This advert (below) appeared in the Daily Mirror on 27 February 1941:

Toffee Carrots Now! 

“Toffee carrots please” children of Shepherd’s bush, London call out in the sweetshop of Mr Harold Carter,   Sweeter than apples – and cheaper – toffee carrots are taking tie place of the absent sweets. 

Behind his shop Mr Carter spends his time dipping home grown carrots in a saucepan of toffee. He is usually sold out before the toffee has hardened on them. 

“There are very few sweets these days” he told the Daily Mirror “and they are pretty dear to buy with pennies. But carrots are cheap, and Lord Woolton urges us to eat them, so I decided to make sweets out of ‘Woolton’s wonders’ “ 

On short sticks, Mr Carter’s toffee carrots sell at halfpenny or penny according to size.

Disney Carrot Characters

In late 1941, Walt Disney offered to help the British Government promote carrots as a nutritious food source. England had already been at war with the Germans for two years and severe rationing measures were in effect.ww2 carroty george meets lord woolton The January 11, 1942 issue of The New York Times Magazine announced: "England has a goodly store of carrots. But carrots are not the staple items of the average English diet. The to sell the carrots to the English public."

Hank Porter, a leading Disney cartoonist  designed a family of carrot characters on behalf of England's Food Minister (Lord Woolton).

The Disney Corporation created a carrot family including Carroty George, Clara Carrot, and Dr. Carrot, for the British media to promote the eating of carrots. The vegetable characters were reproduced on a poster, recipe booklet, flyers and the images were used extensively in a newspaper campaign. Carroty George's motto was "I'll tell you what to do with me"! (Photo right - Walt Disney Studios help with the ministry's wartime food campaigns, 14th November 1941 - Photo by M. McNeill/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

As the British Ministry of Food had already used their own Dr Carrot character in their promotions,  this particular Disney character was never used, and appears to have been "converted" into Pop Carrot.

The following images are reproduced from the originals. They are VERY rare!. Please do not copy them.

Disney Carroty George WW2

Disney Carroty George Recipes WW2

Disney Clara Carrot Leaflet WW2

Disney Calra Carrot Recipes WW2

Disney Pop Carrot Leaflet WW2

Disney Pop Carrot Recipe Leaflet WW2

The cartoons shown below appeared in "The Times" in 1941/2. The associated flyers which were distributed to the public featuring six carrot-based recipes and also had illustrations of Carroty George, Clara Carrot and Pop Carrot. They also featured other frugal recipes.

The full list of recipes as they appeared in the press is shown here together with more information and rare photos about the Disney characters.

These copies are taken from "The Times" archives.  The original leaflets (as reproduced above) are VERY rare!.

Carroty George Disney Character used in WW2 campaign Pop Carrot Disney Character used in WW2 campaign Clara Carrot Disney Character used in WW2 campaign

This is how the New York times reported it on 11 January 1942:

ww2 carroty george disney new york times

ww2 carroty george disney new york times

An article also appeared in the March 1942 "Boy's Life" Magazine (UK). This read:

England has wakened to the fact that  'a carrot a day keeps the blackout at bay', according to Lord Woolton, the Food Minister, English people, however, are not great carrot eaters, so Lord Woolton had to educate his country, where upon he cabled Walt Disney in Hollywood, and asked if Disney would create a set of carrot cartoons for him. Within a few hours he received a reply: Have immediately created Carrot Family, Dr. Carrot, George, and Clara. The British Press Service wire-photoed the drawings via RCA, and now the Carrot Family is all over the British Isles.

If you get a call this spring from Governor McNutt, to plant and raise a big crop of carrot or sweet potatoes. don't be surprised, 'Be Prepared', for America is going in for Vitamin A in a very big way.

(Note that the original press article shows Dr Carrot - this was ultimately changed to Pops Carrots as England already had its own Dr Carrot character)

ww2 carroty characters disney

From Time Magazine (USA)  29 December 1941 -

"Three new characters made of carrots (Dr. Carrot, Carroty George, Clara Carrot) have been photo-wired to London, they are advising the British that if they want to see better during blackouts, they had better munch carrots." 

In fact there were four characters, Pop Carrot was not mentioned.  As the British Ministry of Food had already used their own Dr Carrot in their promotions, this Disney character was never used, and is lost for posterity. Perhaps Pop Carrot came later as a replacement for Dr Carrot?

Any one with further information about the Disney Carrot Characters or the whereabouts of the posters or leaflets please contact the Museum.

(The World Carrot Museum respectfully acknowledges the outstanding work undertaken by David Lesjak at the Toons at War Blog which has assisted in the research of some of the above information about the Disney Characters. It also provides an excellent resource about the role Toons played in Wartime)

The full list of recipes contained in the Disney leaflets is shown here together with more information about the Disney characters.

Here is one of Carroty George's recipes, as part of a series of carrot based recipes designed to encourage healthy eating during rationing.

You can meet young Carroty George any day at the 'Hot Pot' if you're a member. He belongs of course, to all the best clubs, and what's more he has the entrée of all the best kitchens. That's because a fellow of tact and resource and can so quickly adapt himself to any occasion, sweet or savoury. See how well he fits into:

Carrot Hot Pot

Wash and coarsely grate 6 carrots and 6 potatoes; mix with 2 tablespoons packet sage and onion. Make seasoning of 2 teaspoons salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and, if possible, brown sugar. Put half the vegetables in a stewpot, cover with half the seasoning, add rest of vegetables and rest of seasoning. No water required, cover stewpot and bake very slowly for 2 hours. You'll have a dish very much out of the ordinary, for 3 or 4.

Carrot Fudge (Recipe from Colleen Moulding's "Frugal Recipes from Wartime Britain"). Dig for victory poster child

You will need:
4 tablespoons of finely grated carrot
1 gelatine leaf
orange essence or orange squash
a saucepan and a flat dish

Put the carrots in a pan and cook them gently in just enough water to keep them covered, for ten minutes. Add a little orange essence, or orange squash to flavour the carrot. Melt a leaf of gelatine and add it to the mixture. Cook the mixture again for a few minutes, stirring all the time. Spoon it into a flat dish and leave it to set in a cool place for several hours. When the "fudge" feels firm, cut it into chunks and get eating! 

A Modern Version

Carrot Fudge

Ingredients 150ml condensed milk 100g sugar 25g golden syrup 75g butter 225g grated carrot


1. Stir all the time that the mixture is being heated.

2. Use a large heavy pan – Dissolve the sugar and syrup in the milk and add the grated carrots and any flavouring.

3. Boil vigorously, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the sugar thermometer shows the temperature to be 240°F or 115°C. Or if you don’t have such a thing, once it starts to “bond” together, change colour and start to smell like toffee

4. Take care not to splash the mixture which is very hot. But a sticky cooker is inevitable.

5. Take off the heat.

6. Stir in the butter a little at a time.

7. Then pour the mixture into a greased 20cm square tin to cool.

8. Cut into small squares when cold and store in an airtight tin. Or roll into balls and drop in icing sugar

Optional Additional Flavouring: 50g melted plain chocolate (not cooking chocolate) OR 1 tsp cocoa powder OR 1 tsp instant coffee powder OR 1 tbsp orange juice OR 2 drops vanilla essence

Let us hope that the country never faces such extremes again. However, it is now realised that the home population never ate so well as during and after the war. This was thanks to the strict rationing of shop-bought goods and the amount of fresh vegetables that people ate.

There is a simple message for the 21st Century's increasingly obese and under-exercised populations. Take up carrot growing and give up the car while you're at it!

Dig For Victory

Dig For Victory Poster - 2 spade

dig for victory ww2 logoThe Ministry of Food launched its 'Dig for Victory' campaign in October 1939, one month after war broke out. The campaign was led by an agricultural economist, Professor John Raeburn, who was recruited to the Ministry of Food in 1939, and who would run the campaign until the end of the war. Examples of Dig for Victory Poster here.

The campaign encouraged people to transform their front and back gardens into vegetable plots. The goal was to replace imported food, thus freeing up shipping space for more valuable war materials, and to make up for food that was sunk in transit. By the end of 1940, 728,000 tons of food making its way to Britain had been lost, sunk by German submarine activity.

The government realised that the population would go hungry if the war was to last longer than a few months. The result was that formal gardens, lawns and even sports pitches were transformed into allotments, large and small, and everybody on the home front was encouraged to become a vegetable gardener.

Whilst the term "Victory Garden" has become synonymous with World War Two, its origin can be traced back to the 1600?s in England where Richard Gardner in his book entitled Victory Gardens wrote: 

"If any citie or towne should be besieged with the enemy  what better provision for the greatest number of people  can be than every garden be sufficiently planted with carrots?

Prior to World War II, Britain imported over 55 million tons of food a year - much of it from Canada and the USA. After the outbreak of war, merchant vessels carrying provisions into Britain, especially those coming across the Atlantic, became targets of the German navy and food imports were under threat. At the same time the British government recognised that the merchant ships were required for the transport of troops, munitions and even aeroplanes to the theatres of war.

In October 1939 Rob Hudson, Minister for Agriculture, announced "We want not only the big man with the plough but the little man with the spade to get busy this autumn... Let 'Dig for Victory' be the motto of everyone with a garden". It was a desperate request because farmers could only produce 30% of the country's food. But if gardens could be turned over to growing food rather than flowers, up to 25% of the necessary vegetables could be provided.

The whole of Britain's home front was encouraged to transform private gardens into mini-allotments. Not only this, but parks, formal public gardens and various areas of unused land were dug up for planting fruit and vegetables. Kensington Gardens dug up its flowers and planted rows of cabbages and carrots. All over the country, lawns were dug and potatoes, cabbages, carrots and beans planted. Windsor Great Park was given over to wheat, and public parks, road verges, railway embankments, golf clubs, tennis courts, roofs and even window boxes were put to work. Dr Carrot and Potato Pete Poster

The Ministry of Agriculture got in on the act producing several informative leaflets on how to grow more. Leaflet number one "Grow for Winter as well as Summer" which showed how to get fresh, home grown vegetables throughout the year.  Copies can be seen here.  Front page and inside page.  The plan worked and by 1945, around 75% of food was produced in Britain.

A song was introduced to promote the Dig for Victory slogan.

Dig! Dig! Dig! And your muscles will grow big
Keep on pushing the spade
Don't mind the worms
Just ignore their squirms
And when your back aches laugh with glee
And keep on diggin?
Till we give our foes a Wiggin?
Dig! Dig! Dig! to Victory"

Dig for Victory was very successful. From a total of 815,000 allotments in 1939 the number rose to 1,400,000 by 1943.

Most of the nutrition in carrot taproots in the storage cells of the cortex, the darkly pigmented layer surrounding the core of water conducting xylem cells. Victory garden crops were grown to maximum size, and thus after months of growth, a cambium layer formed around the original xylem core of herbaceous carrot roots. Cell divisions in the cambium increased root diameter by developing secondary xylem, also known as wood; in short, carrots became hard and tough when they were grown for an entire season.

However, they could be combined in infinite ways with cabbage and potatoes, two other highly productive crops that could be harvested at will. For instance, in a wartime version of the Irish dish known as champ, cooked carrots and cabbage were mounded on mashed potatoes and seasoned with salt, pepper, and a bit of margarine. Countless other British recipes relied on the vegetable trio of carrots, cabbages, and potatoes.

It was reported in the UK Times on 15 May 1941 that "Evidence of American determination to help Britain in every possible way is provided by the offer of vegetable seeds".  These were accepted by Mr. R. S. Hudson, Minister of Agriculture. The first instalment of nine tons arrived through the agency of the British War Relief Society.  Among the vegetables which have been specially asked for are onions, carrots, beans. cauliflower, broccoli, leeks, parsnips, and tomatoes.

Very soon allotment holders, members of the Army and Royal Air Force, and others were sowing American seeds on their plots.

In the USA - Victory Gardens

US Victory Gardens Book FrontispieceThe programme was mirrored in the USA with the formation of Victory Gardens. Left the Official US leaflet issued February 1942.

Victory gardens were vegetable gardens planted to ensure an adequate food supply for c