How Carrots were used during WW1 hardships
World War One - One widely-used but widely-disliked ration for soldiers was the canned soup, Maconochie. It was a thin and watery broth containing sliced turnips and carrots, Maconochie was endured by famished soldiers, and detested by all. One soldier summed up the army’s attitude towards it by saying, ‘Warmed in the tin, Machonochie was edible; cold it was a man-killer.’ (WW2 here)
In 1914, when the First World War broke out, Britain imported over 60% of its food and 80% of its wheat. In the forty years prior to the War, this had made sense: the cultivation of the vast American plains and the falling costs of transportation by steamship meant that prices for grain were low. Many British farmers had switched from arable farming to producing dairy and meat, which promised higher profits.
But as the War went on, German submarines targeted commercial shipping and Britain's reliance on imported food led to shortages. With the men and horses who previously worked the land away at war, there was no way to meet demand and prices rose, which disproportionately affected the poorest.
To solve this problem and attempt to improve people's health and for their morale, every available square yard was encouraged to be used to produce food. For those not fighting abroad, posters, newspapers and political speeches made it clear that their patriotic duty was to secure Britain’s food supply. Even those with tiny back gardens were encouraged to grow their own vegetables.
To help novice gardeners make a success of their adventures in food growing, ‘model allotments’ were set up in Regent’s Park and Kensington Gardens in 1917. Here, an experienced horticulturist was on hand to demonstrate how a small area could produce a succession of fresh vegetables throughout the year.
The focus was on growing bulky crops with high nutritional and calorific content which were easy to grow. Gardeners were not advised to grow fruit, probably because trees only begin to produce after several years.
Allotments at Greenwich Park (London) - Renting an allotment was one way of alleviating the food crisis for a family. During World War I, around 4% of Greenwich Park was turned into allotments. Allotments in Greenwich Park were affordable, costing 7s 6d a year, compared to the weekly allowance received by a wife (with no children) of the lowest ranked soldier (12s 6d) or the minimum weekly wage for a woman doing skilled ‘male’ work (20s) - though in practice women were often paid less than this. In addition to the cost of renting the plot, allotment holders had to pay for seed, tools, fertilizer and the cost of securing and improving the ground.
At a time when local Greenwich shopkeepers were selling milk diluted with water and overpricing their canned meat and coffee, it must have been a pleasure to eat your home grown vegetables, knowing exactly where they came from. The result was what the media called 'Allotmentitis' - the catching condition that is growing your own vegetables - this significantly eased the food crisis in the First World War and paved the way for the creation of allotments across the country after the war ended. The success of allotments also paved the way for the Dig for Victory campaign in World War II.
Carrots were not promoted very much in the official advice, the main concern was wheat. Potatoes, Cabbage and Onions appeared to be the
staple diet. There was a vegetable pie, but it contained no carrots! There was no Carrot Soup recipe, although there was onion and swede.
The Win-the-War Cookery Book (Ministry of Food 2 pence, 1917) had these specific carrot recipes and Soup advice (right)
Two large carrots; One egg; One tablespoonful butter or margarien; Half a teaspoonful of chopped parsley; Seasoning to taste.
Boil time carrots and mash very thoroughly add the fat, melted, the egg, well beaten and the seasoning. Beat them all together very well, and put into a greased mould. Bake until hot right through, then turn out and sprinkle with time parsley. This is nice served with melted butter or white sauce.
Two carrots; Herbs and seasoning to taste; One tablespoonful of butter, nutter, or margarine; Two tablespoons of dry boiled rice; One egg; One gill of milk; Two onions.
Boil the carrots and mash them smoothly. Chop the onions and fry till brown in the fat.Mix these prepared vegetables with rice, beaten egg, milk, herbs, and seasoning; put the mixture into a basin and stand in a pan of very hot water until it is set.
Put it out into a shallow dish, and when cool make it into rissoles. Fry in deep fat, and serve very hot.
A Carrot Marmalade was advocated in 1915:
Source: The Great War Cook Book, From Trench Pudding to Carrot Marmalade by May Myron, c. 1915 (Published in 2014 by Amberley Publishing with an Introduction by Eleri Pipien)
Take two and half pounds of peeled sliced carrots (weigh after preparing). six lemons thinly sliced, with the pips removed, a heaped saltspoonful (1/4 teaspoon) of salt and four quarts of water. Boil all together till they can be pulped through a sieve; say about two and a half hours; then add two pounds of sugar, and b oil up until the marmalade will set.
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