Great Britain

Does eating carrots help us to see in the dark?

This saying, popular in the blackouts of the First World War, when carrots were prized for their sweetness as substitutes for sugar, contains more than a grain of truth.

The vegetables are a great source of beta carotene, the plant form of vitamin A - it is this vitamin that helps to prevent night blindness by combining with the protein opsin in the retina at the back of the eye to form rhodopsin, the chemical essential for good night vision.

That’s why, in wartime Britain, the Ministry of Food did its best to drum up enthusiasm for carrots.

It’s also true that an apple a day could keep the doctor away as they promote a healthy circulation and immune system due to the antioxidants that help to keep arteries clear of clogging cholesterol.

It is also said, however, that ‘an apple a day keep the dentist in pay’, due to acids and sugars.

These are among many fascinating facts contained in A World to the Wise, a stocking filler-sized book containing traditional advice and old country ways. In it you’ll discover that it’s never too late to learn from a proverb or an old wives’ tale, and you’ll also find out which fokelore and myths to ignore.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Ruth BinneyRuth Binney

Researched and written by naturalist and author Ruth Binney, the hardback is a mine of useful information on subjects ranging from better housekeeping to gardening, kitchen tips, health and beauty and signs of nature.

Ruth, who has strong connections to Bradford, spending her infancy in North View Road, East Bierley, has been studying nature for more than 50 years. She holds a degree in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge and has written numerous books on gardening, the countryside and country sayings and customs

Cucumber slices are cool to the touch, ‘but lying down with your contact lenses out and your eyes shut is probably as good for you’, she writes.

Lavender will keep your drawers and wardrobes smelling sweet, but as a moth deterrent, it is not nearly as effective as some traditionalists would have you believe. ‘For a natural choice, cedar oil is a better remedy, but is still far from totally reliable.’

Dock leaves are an effective remedy to a nettle sting due to its leaves rich in oxalates, explains Ruth. ‘The best way of avoiding stings is to grip a nettle tightly so that the tips of the hairs break off before they have a chance of entering the skin.’ Hence the term , grasping the nettle’, has been synonymous with bravery since the 17th century.

Ruth’s father was a Bradfordian, as were many generations before him. Her aunt Ellen Chanter was a former mayor of Spenborough.

Ellen and her brother Charles ran Bradford-based AE Chanter, a small light engineering company, while her uncle Harry had a pharmacist’s at Dudley Hill.

Superstitions also come under scrutiny in Ruth’s book. How black cats are viewed depends upon where you live. They are considered lucky in Britain, but in the USA and mainland Europe they are ill omens - it is white felines that are the lucky ones. Ruth does not elaborate as to whether either is actually true.

Spinach is not the best vegetable source of iron – this belief was the result of a slip of the pen made in the 1890s, when a food analyst put the dot (now decimal point) in the wrong place when making a calculation. It implied that is contained ten times as much iron as it did.

Butterflies do not live for only one day - some can live for a year or more. And, contrary to eating bread crusts does not make your hair curl.

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