Vaguely Interesting Snippets | 7 May 2014

Belgium was more economically valuable to the Nazis than the occupied USSR

According to ITV’s magisterial World At War series, Belgium provided greater economic benefit to the Germans during the Second World War than the entire occupied territory in the Soviet Union. Belgium’s intact infrastructure and manufacturing base compared to the scorched earth of Stalin’s western territory.

Were carrots made orange as a patriotic gesture by the Dutch?

Most people know that carrots have not always been orange. The original cultivars were purple, with some white and yellow mutations. So why is the modern carrot almost universally orange?

The orange strain was finally developed and stabilised by Dutch growers in the 16 – 17th centuries. A nice story has it that they were bred in the appropriately patriotic hue to honour William of Orange, the Stadtholder of the United Provinces of the Netherlands.

Like many historical anecdotes, there is limited documentary evidence to back this story. But it is a nice idea!