Blue food is certainly striking. But does it occur naturally?
The answer is not really. There are some standout blue foods – hello, blueberries! — but there are next to no naturally occurring blue vegetables.
We have scoured the depths of the internet to bring you everything you need to know about all the blue vegetables known to man.
Are There Blue Vegetables?
There are two known blue vegetables actively cultivated in the world at the moment. They are:
- Blue corn
- All Blue potatoes
Blue corn is a type of flint corn that is currently grown in Mexico, and the southernmost parts of the USA. It was first developed by the Hopi people of the Rio Grande region and other surrounding tribes, including the Cherokee.
Its distinctive color quickly made it a staple ingredient and an essential component of some dishes.
Blue corn has a high percentage of anthocyanins – colored pigments – hence the deep blue color. The high concentration of polyphenol pigment, in particular, means that blue corn is very sweet when eaten.
You can try blue corn in some traditional dishes like piki bread or tlacoyo where the blue corn is ground into flour to make a dough. You can also use blue corn flour to make tortillas that have a unique and distinctive coloring.
The Hopi people often used blue corn for symbolic purposes – piki, for example, was prepared for weddings and was the first thing that the newlyweds ate.
Blue corn was also used as a distinction between other tribes in different areas. Blue was favored in the southwest, red in the southeast, white in the northeast, and more common yellow corn in the northeast.
All Blue Potatoes
Sure, most varieties of potatoes aren’t blue, so we might be cheating, but blue potatoes are a cultivated vegetable!
They are an heirloom variety that has been grown for over a hundred years. There are even a couple of subvarieties that have the same striking blue color. These are the Blue Marker, the River John Blue, and the Fenton Blue.
All of these blue potatoes have the same deep blue, almost purple flesh with a white ring just beneath the skin. They grow deep tubers and very deep eyes so are ideal for easy, at-home growing.
Blue potatoes have a similar taste that is different from a common white potato, but not so different you wouldn’t know what you were eating! They have a deep, earthy flavor as a result of the blue pigment.
You can enjoy All Blue potatoes any way you like. Steam, fry, roast, mash, or sauté, the choice is yours!
Why Isn’t There More Blue Food?
You may be wondering why there are so few naturally blue foods. Well, it is quite easy to get muddled in complex biochemistry so keep reading for a basic explanation!
All plants have different amounts of pigments in them. There are three main types of pigment that individually create shades of green, red, or purple respectively.
It is the concentration and combination of these pigments that determine the color of the vegetable.
A lower concentration of carotenoids, for example, will give the vegetable a yellow color, but a high concentration will give a red color.
For blue fruits or vegetables, you want to look at the anthocyanin pigment concentration.
Anthocyanins are very unstable compared to the other types of pigment.
This means that they have a set and fairly narrow window of conditions for the pigment to be present in a high enough concentration to stain flesh blue. But a too-high concentration of anthocyanin pigment will make the flesh purple, like a beetroot.
The blue window is very narrow indeed!
There are just two blue vegetables – blue corn and All Blue potato.
There are so few naturally occurring blue vegetables simply because it is difficult to control the growing conditions enough to keep the blue pigment prominent.
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