Can carrots help you see in the dark?

Is there any truth to the old wives' tale?
Is there any truth to the old wives' tale? Photo: William Meppem

Can carrots help you see in the dark? L. McBride

Yes. But, you need a good number of them. Cut the carrots lengthways to form long slices and then lengthways again to form long, fat julienne. Using a low oven or dehydrator, slowly remove the moisture until you have quite dry sticks. Place them on a heatproof tray and ignite them after sunset. The light will help you see in the dark. More seriously, eating carrots will help people with a condition called nyctalopia or night blindness. This is caused by a severe deficiency of Vitamin A. Eating food high vitamin A, such as carrots, will help correct this condition. Other good sources of vitamin A are yellow or orange-coloured food such as pumpkin (not Cheetos), leafy greens, eggs, and cod liver oil (I was fed this as a child. It took me 25 years to appreciate seafood). Eating carrots will not help a person with normal vision to see in the dark. This misconception was conceived during World War II by the British. They had two problems: an excess of carrots and an air force equipped with newly invented radar, which they wanted to keep secret. By marketing carrots as food that improved night vision, it encouraged Brits living in dimly-lit cities to consume more carrots and was an attempt to put the Germans off the radar scent as RAF pilots could supposedly see in the dark.

Dim sims. Steamed or fried? L. Quist

The excellent TV chef Elizabeth Chong's father developed the dim sum dumpling in the 1940s. They are a larger format of the traditional siu mai – a Chinese pork dumpling. Dim sims, apparently a misspelling of dim sum, are made with cheaper beef or mutton, onions, and MSG. Some brands use even less expensive cabbage. They are best steamed, served in a thin plastic bag with cheap, salty soy sauce (made from wheat) bought at a cafe near public transport.

Do I need to peel my broad beans? F. Price

It depends on where you live. A cold winter in some parts of Victoria and NSW has slowed the season down a bit, and they are just fattening up now. In warmer parts, they are well under way. Home vegie gardeners: don't be afraid of trimming the top tender leaves, and adding them to a salad. Use the little, undeveloped beans as you would sugar peas (also known as mange tout, or eat-all peas). Make a dip of soy sauce, sugar and Zhenjiang vinegar, then dip them into this a snack. Depending on the size of your hands, broad beans smaller than a thumbnail with a fine skin can be eaten raw. Again they love salty, umami sauces. When the skin on the outside of the bean starts to thicken, darken and wrinkle ever so slightly, then that is an indication that the bean really is thinking about reproducing. It wants to pass on its genes. It starts pumping tannin into the skin. It's bitter. It tastes bitter to bugs that would eat the seed for the next generation, too. As soon as this starts to happen, peel the skin off the broad beans before cooking to avoid the bitterness.

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