When it comes to “eating the rainbow”, blue can be a tricky color to get onto your plate. It’s estimated that only 3% of the average American diet includes purple and blue foods. In this article, we take a look at why that is, and what colorful foods you can find to keep the blues at bay.
Why Are There So Few Blue Foods?
The reason there are so few blue fruits and vegetables relates to the biochemistry inside plants.
The green pigment chlorophyll, which helps the plant absorb the sun’s rays and generate food, relies on absorbing blue light. Pigments that look blue reflect those blue wavelengths, and so work against the plant’s energy-generating process.
That said, there are blue pigments to be found in nature, usually intended to catch your attention on fruits and flowers. The blue color is from particular anthocyanins, which have great antioxidant properties. Not only that, but numerous studies have shown that a diet rich in anthocyanins is associated with a healthy heart, stabilized blood pressure and even a reduced risk of depression.
The List: 17 Blue Foods
1. Adirondack Blue Potatoes
This blue variety of potato is the result of selective breeding, and was released by Cornell University in 2013. The skin and flesh are blue, with a mix of some purple hues. These blue potatoes can be cooked in all your usual potato dishes, but the color can be lost when you boil them.
When fried or baked, they retain their blue hue and add some exciting variety to your meal! These potatoes are considered “superfood” because of the high amount of antioxidants they contain.
When you think of blue foods, chances are blueberries are the first to spring to mind. This purplish-blue berry is a national favorite in cheesecakes, pies, drinks and more. Blueberries are also a common ingredient in jellies, jams, muffins and even healthy breakfast cereals. Blueberries are packed with vitamins and minerals like vitamin C and potassium, as well as being a good source of fiber to keep your digestive system healthy.
3. Blue Cheese
Often competing with each other for the title of “King of Cheeses”, blue cheese varieties are definitely an acquired taste. The blue veins and spots on these cheeses are made by culturing the mold Penicillium in the cheese-making process. Strong, sharp and salty, the most popular blue cheeses are Roquefort, Gorgonzola and Stilton.
That said, with over 40 varieties to choose from, there are milder options on the list, and blue cheese fans are convinced you will find one you like. Blue cheese is good to spread on your bread, or crumbled or melted into pasta dishes.
4. Blue Corn
This blue variety of maize is known by several names including Hopi maize, Yoeme Blue, Tarahumara Maiz Azul and Rio Grande Blue. Blue corn is commonly found in traditional Southwestern dishes like piki bread, tlacoyo, tortillas and cereal, and give these dishes a characteristic blue hue. The blue corn kernels contain more antioxidants than their yellow cousins, which can help you protected from heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
5. Blue Crab
The blue crab, also known as the Atlantic blue crab or the Chesapeake blue crab, is native to the western Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Its shell is blue to olive green in color, and its claws are a bright blue. It is smaller than some other species of crab, but is a very strong swimmer thanks to its last pair of legs being specially adapted into large paddles!
The blue crab is considered an important culinary and economic product of the United States, specifically in Louisiana where the world’s largest blue crab fishery is located. It has a sweet, tender meat, which makes it worth the effort of getting through the shell!
6. Blue Curaçao
This common cocktail ingredient is a blue colored liqueur mixed and flavored with some dried bitter orange peel. The oranges used for the flavoring are Laraha oranges, which are native to the island of Curaçao. This iconic Caribbean alcohol wasn’t originally blue, until a Dutch company added the food dye Brilliant Blue; since then, the blue color has become a signature of this famous tropical liqueur.
While it appears on our list of blue foods, this drink doesn’t carry any particular health benefits from its blue coloring, so it is best enjoyed in moderation.
7. Blue Tomato
The varieties of tomato plant that produce blue and purple fruit are a healthier version of your common red tomato, that have been selectively bred to increase the health benefits of this everyday food. The blue tomatoes they bear contain excellent levels of anthocyanins which gives the fruit its blue hue. The taste is slightly sour, and blue tomatoes can be eaten fresh just like your regular tomatoes or cooked with other ingredients, used to make sauces or blended into a healthy juice.
There are now a range of blue tomato types such as Azul blue, Bosque and the Indigo Rose. The darker the skin, the higher the level of anthocyanins and the greater the health benefits!
This Mediterranean flower is also known as starflower, due to the striking star-shape of its spring-time flowers. Although the flowers of most borage plants are blue, some can be pink. As well as adding cheerful color to your plate, the flower has a cucumber-like taste, making it a perfect addition to salads or as a garnish on your food.
Starflowers have also been used in desserts and cocktails or even frozen in ice cubes to add a touch of luxury to a refreshing cold drink. Commercially, borage seeds are used in making grüne Soße of Frankfurt, Pansoti of Italy and flavoring pickled gherkins in Poland and Russia.
Borage has also long been used as a herbal medicine, through use of the seeds, leaves or flowers. It is credited with relieving the symptoms of asthma, and contains high levels of gamma linolenic acid (GLA) which is key for skin health. However, some of the compounds in borage are processed by the liver, so it should be avoided in people with liver problems, as well as pregnant or breastfeeding women.
9. Brilliant Blue FCF (Blue 1)
If you have a favorite blue food that’s not on this list, there’s a chance it might be colored with this synthetic dye. Brilliant Blue is one of the oldest FDA approved food coloring because this is generally safe and non-toxic. It is commonly found in processed foods like canned peas, cotton candy and ice cream, as well as children’s medications, dietary supplements and cosmetics.
While intake of Brilliant Blue at standard levels has not been associated with any negative effects on your health, it doesn’t bring with it any of the antioxidant health benefits that we find in other blue foods.
10. Butterfly Peas
Also known as the Asian Pigeonwings plant, this bright blue flower is commonly used across Southeast Asia to make a colorful tea, which can be enjoyed hot or cold, and is often mixed with lemon or dried lemongrass. It is also used to make Eurasian putugal, where the flower is used to add color to glutinous rice and desserts.
In Northeast Malaysia, it is a key ingredient for in the sky-blue nasi kerabu rice dish. In Myanmar and Thailand, the flowers are battered and fried to make a tasty snack.
Butterfly pea flower tea is a traditional medicine in the parts of the world where it grows naturally, and is said to relieve stress, boost your mood, and even have anti-aging properties.
11. Concord Grapes
This dark blue grape was named after the town in Massachusetts where it was developed. The dark skin of the Concord grape is sometimes covered with a light waxy “bloom” which can be rubbed off. As with other grape varieties, Concord grapes can be used as table grapes as well as making juices and wine. Specifically, the sacramental kosher wine is traditionally made from Concord grapes.
These blue fruits are an excellent source of antioxidants that can help protect your skin, brain and heart.
12. Damson Plums
The damson plum is a small ovoid fruit with a uniquely sour taste. The skin color of this plum ranges from dark blue to indigo or almost black depending on the type. The damson name is traced from and most usually applied in forms that originate from Great Britain, while in South and Southeast Asia, this plum is often called Jamblang.
Damson plums are used for culinary purposes like preservation of fruit and making jams. They contain high levels of vitamin C, and the dark blue skin is packed with anthocyanins, giving them antioxidant properties.
This blue-purple berry changes to red when diluted in water. Elderberries are also used as an FDA-approved colorant, and can be certified as organic foods depending on the growing process. These little berries are also great in providing vitamin C, vitamin B6 and iron, and have long been believed to have medicinal effects in the treatment of minor diseases such as colds, constipation and more.
Hippocrates, the renowned “Father of Medicine”, called the elder tree his “medicine chest” in ancient times.
This type of blue berry is known by a variety of names including blue honeysuckle, sweetberry honeysuckle, fly honeysuckle, blue-berried honeysuckle and honeyberry. The plant is native in cold parts of the world, such as Canada, Japan and Russia.
This blue fruit has a rectangular shape that makes it quite distinct from other berries and when this fruit is ripe, it will give you an excellent vitamin C boost. Just like other berries, you can also use haskap in pastries, jams, juices, ice cream, yogurt and more.
15. Indigo Milk Cap
This interesting colored fungus grows naturally in Northeast America, East Asia, Central America and in some parts of Southern France. The color of the mushroom is dark blue when fresh, and changes to pale blue-gray as the mushroom ages.
The blue mushroom oozes blue or indigo-colored milk when you cut the flesh, that slowly changes to green when expose to air. The mushroom is edible, although its taste is described as bitter or peppery and it is generally eaten for novelty rather than for its taste. It has a coarse-grained texture with a high content of healthy saturated fatty acids including stearic acid. The blue milk from the fungus can be used to add color to marinades.
Pansies are a common garden flower, cultivated in varieties ranging from purple, white, yellow and blue colors. The name is derived from the French “pensée” meaning thought, and so pansies have been used as a symbol of thought throughout history, and so giving pansies to someone means you are thinking of them.
While pansies may be a pretty addition to the garden or mantelpiece, the flowers are also edible and taste like lettuce, making them a bright addition to salads or sandwiches. When coated in sugar, they make a sweet decoration for cakes.
We all know that leaves of the rosemary bush are a handy kitchen herb to add a unique aroma to meat dishes, but did you know the flowers can be eaten too? The delicate little flowers of the Mediterranean plant are often blue in color, but can sometimes be found in white, pink or purple varieties.
As they carry a similar scent to the leaves, the flowers can be used as herbs in any dish that features rosemary leaves, but they are best eaten fresh to enjoy the soft, delicate flavor. They make a beautiful decor on your plate, scattered over salads or entrees.
18. Silver Quandong
The Silver Quandong, or Blue Marble tree is considered sacred in India. This fruit of this tree has bright blue skin and green flesh. You can eat it raw or remove the flesh and mix into water to make a paste for traditional medicine. The fruit was said to be used for treatment for epilepsy in some places. Inside the fruit is a seed, which is traditionally used to make necklaces and even rosaries.