Plants contain various pigments responsible for the colors of each of their parts, and thus the color of the foods obtained from them. Human beings have used color to estimate the nutritional value of various foods and their flavors for millennia. Brightly colored foods are assumed to be more nutritious than the rest.
However, gray foods are nutritious, beautiful, and have similar benefits to other colored foods, and they are an important part of a balanced diet. Eating the same colored foods every day can make you miss out on some rare nutrients found in gray-colored foods. You can mix gray foods with other colored foods for colorful and complete meals.
Currently, gray foods seem to appeal to people more than before, and they’re willing to go the extra mile to find these forgotten beauties.
What Makes Food Gray?
There is a myth that gray foods come from plants grown under special conditions. Actually, gray foods are obtained from plants growing under normal conditions except the Yubari king melon, which is exclusively grown in greenhouses.
That said, gray foods are rare to find. They contain a pigment called pheophytin a, and non-pigmented cells known as leucoplasts. Together, these give the foods their gray color.
Why are there Few Gray Foods?
Since evolution, plants have adopted various distinctive colors to make them attractive to animals and humans, who help in pollination. Gray, an intermediate between black and white, didn’t appeal to animals and humans as much as bright colored fruits. Because of this, gray plants were not dispersed and remained few, while other plants spread far and wide with increased pollination.
Are Gray Foods as Healthy as Other Foods?
Despite their scarcity, gray foods are very nutritious with many health benefits.
Like other differently colored fruits and vegetables, Gray fruits and vegetables are rich in phytonutrients. They also contain antioxidants that help body cells fight free radicals, thus lowering the risk of cancer and heart diseases.
Let’s look at naturally gray foods or those that take shades of gray when cooked or processed.
The List: 27 Gray Foods
Gray anchovies are small common types of fish found mostly in marine water, the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, and the Black sea. Anchovies are oily and add a savory taste to your dishes.
Gray anchovies are often preserved with salt packs and take a deep gray color when pickled with vinegar.
They are a rich source of B vitamins essential in nerve functions, red blood cell formation, digestion, etc. They also contain vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that also helps retain vitamins A and C.
Adding gray anchovies helps complete your diet since they also contain significant levels of minerals, iron, phosphorus, calcium, and zinc.
2. Appenzeller Cheese
Also known as Alpine cheese, Appenzeller cheese originated in the Swiss Alps, where it has a documented history dated 700 years ago in the Appenzeller region.
This gray cheese is made from hard cow’s milk but tastes like fruits or nuts. Appenzeller is a brand name used by nearly a hundred cheese-making companies. Thus, its tase may be strong or mild, depending on the ingredients used.
Appenzeller cheese is rich in calories, vitamin A, vitamin B12, valine, isoleucine, calcium, and L-Tryptophan. The only downside is the high sodium content found in the cheese
3. Baobab Fruit
Baobab fruit, also known as monkey bread of Africa or cream of tartar, is a fruit of the baobab tree that originates in the African continent and Southwest Asia.
The fruit is velvet-covered, gray, and gourd-like. It is a huge egg-shaped capsule with a woody covering filled with a fleshy pulp. The pulp dries, hardens, and fragments into pieces appearing like chunks of powdery dry bread. The seeds are hard, black/brown, and kidney-shaped.
The baobab fruit pulp is used for making drinks or as a food additive when dried. Dried baobab fruits are also approved by the European Commission and the United States Food and Drug Administration as a novel food ingredient, meaning it doesn’t have a long history of being used for human consumption. The seeds can be consumed raw, processed, or roasted.
Baobab fruit is rich in minerals and vitamins. Its seeds contain all eight essential amino acids and are rich in vitamin C, potassium, phosphorus, and carbohydrates.
4. Charleston Gray Watermelon
Charleston Gray watermelon is a huge elongated melon with a greenish-gray rind and bright red flesh. Charleston gray melon is sweet and juicy, and pickle is usually made out of its rind.
Like other watermelons, Charleston Gray is low in calories but very nutritious. It is high in lycopene, second to the tomato. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that prevents some cancers and cardiovascular diseases. Charleston is also rich in vitamin c, vitamin A, potassium, and dietary fiber.
Cheetos are delicious corn puff snacks made in the US but sold in over 36 countries. Cheetos are naturally gray, but since a food’s color affects people’s perception of its taste, they are artificially colored into a bright orange.
These finger-licking snacks are made of enriched corn-meal, cheese seasoning, vegetable oil, and others. Different flavors and colors have been added to suit the preferences of various countries.
Cheetos are a great snack to grab when away from home, and real food is hard to find. They are made from wholemeal cornmeal, which is a source of fiber and other nutrients. Cheetos are loaded with calories and enriched with essential vitamins and minerals.
6. Dried Fish
Fish dried using traditional methods such as open-air drying, salting and smoking are gray. Dried fish retains omega-3 and antioxidants present in fresh fish. Dried fish has a longer half-life than fresh fish, and methods such as smoking can enhance the taste.
7. Earl Gray Macarons
Macarons are smooth, creamy, and fruity. Topping them with earl gray custard will give you an incredible breakfast that will stick to your memory all day long. The earl gray custard is silky and bold-flavored; it provides a super-sweet taste when placed on buttercream.
You can use the macaron recipe for different flavors, adding more custard as you require. You can also use earl gray custard on various confections such as cupcakes, creams, etc.
Earl gray custard is made from milk and earl gray tea leaves. Thus it is loaded with all the nutrients in milk and the antioxidants in earl gray tea leaves.
8. Gray Cake
Gray cakes can make a centerpiece for any celebration. A wedding cake is a traditional dessert in a wedding ceremony. Usually, the theme colors for the wedding determine the cake’s color, so a gray cake is baked to match a gray theme. A gray birthday cake will complement other colors and has become very popular for celebrating any type of birthday.
9. Gray Cake Pops
Gray cake pops are cakes designed like a lollipop. They are sweet and alluring, especially to kids. They come in many colors, gray being one of them. These are a must-have at Halloween parties!
10. Gray Edible Mushrooms
Although there are plenty of mushrooms, you may require an experienced mycologist to help you distinguish between the edible and the poisonous. Oyster mushrooms are the common type of edible mushrooms. They resemble a fan, and their color ranges from soft-brown to gray.
Preparing gray oyster mushrooms is a straightforward process. You can add them raw in salads or cook them briefly to enjoy their refined taste and velvety texture. You can also prepare mushroom soups or incorporate them into other dishes.
Edible mushrooms are a low-calorie diet packed with various minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.
11. Gray Hubbard Squash
Gray Hubbard squash is the only gray vegetable! It is one of a variety of winter squashes with a hard-to-peel, beautiful blue-gray skin. The inner flesh is orange with a sweet taste like a pumpkin, and, because they are large, they can be sold in chunks.
There are many ways to prepare: you can eat it roasted, boiled, mashed, or baked. It also works well with other recipes, and its seeds are nutritionally loaded. The fleshy part is rich in beta carotene, vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamin C, and other micronutrients.
To get a crunchy snack full of proteins and healthy fats, you can toast the seeds. You can also cook the seeds in an oven at 400 degrees for about 10-15 minutes and add your favorite toppings when ready.
12. Gray Ice Cream
When summer temperatures are unforgiving, a couple of ice cream licks can help make it tolerable. Gray ice creams have become increasingly popular over the last few years for their unique colors and tastes.
There are several types of gray ice cream. One is made from Earl Gray tea, which is full of antioxidants (as well as calories!). Japanese sesame gray ice cream is made from toasted black sesame seeds, with sea salt and vanilla. The sesame seeds are rich in magnesium, calcium and other minerals.
Another popular option is Jeni’s gray ice cream, which is described as ‘sunshine’ on a spoon for its summer flavor. It is made from a mixture of natural fruit and vegetable juices, including carrot, pumpkin, spirulina, lemon, passion fruit juice, and tangerine oil.
13. Gray Owl Cheese
Gray owl cheese is a surface-ripened Canadian cheese made from goat’s milk. It is dark and wrinkly but also firm inside.
Although the silky-smooth gray owl cheese is dense, it readily melts with a sweet and captivating aroma in the mouth. It’s one of a kind that you wouldn’t want to miss.
Gray owl cheese is an excellent source of calories providing 90 calories per 30-gram serving. This is further divided into 69% fat, 26% protein, and 4% carbs.
14. Gray Salt
Gray salt, also called Celtic sea salt, is normally obtained from France’s Atlantic coast. It has larger crystals than ordinary table salt and is superior to regular salt.
Gray salt retains sea minerals and contains iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, iodine, potassium, and manganese. Gray salt also has a low sodium content making it a good option for preventing hypertension and other diseases caused by increased sodium intake.
Gray salt has a chunky texture, a salty flavor, and a mineral tinge appearance. Since it’s extracted from the sea, it is slightly moist and needs drying before use.
There are numerous varieties of guavas. Their flesh and peels have various colors, including gray. A guava’s rind and flesh are equally healthy. The flesh is soft, sweet, and delicious when the guava is ripe.
You can eat ripe and unripe guavas. To consume unripe guavas, add salt and chilies to improve the taste. Guavas are unique in that they naturally clean your teeth.
Guavas are rich in vitamin C and low in carbs, fats, and proteins. Their traditional therapeutic benefits include countering diabetes, gut infection, metabolic disorders, and obesity.
Mackerels are one of the most popular types of fish found in temperate and tropical areas. They are gray with vertical stripes on their backs and fork-like tails.
These fish are found on the oceanic stretch of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. They live near the water surface and draw close to the shore during spring.
Mackerels are good protein sources and readily available. They are also abundant in essential fatty acids which help maintain beautiful skin. However, you should eat them fresh out of the water because they rot easily, and it’s difficult to keep them fresh for long.
17. Milk Chocolate Gems
Milk chocolate gems are milky candies enclosed in gray-colored crispy shells. These tasty milk chocolate gems are made from milk and vegetable or fruit extracts. They are mainly used at parties and can come in various colors.
Muskmelon, Cucumis melo, has different varieties, including cantaloupe. The outside skin is gray with a fleshy orange core.
Muskmelon is sweet and juicy with plenty of vitamins and minerals to boost your immune system. Muskmelon quenches your thirst during hot days, relieves constipation and prevents inflammation of parts of your digestive tract.
Muskmelon is also helpful in managing asthma, boosting eye health, skin health, and prevention of heart disease and cancer.
Oysters are invertebrate animals of the phylum bivalve molluscs. They are soft-bodied with an external double-hinged shell covering and live in marine or saline water.
You can eat oysters raw or cooked, and people often add salt and butter to enhance the taste. Oysters are generally low in calories, so you can incorporate gray oysters into your weight loss diet.
Gray oysters are soft and chewy-textured with a marvelous taste. They are excellent sources of zinc, calcium, copper, and calcitriol.
Sage/common sage, Salvia officinalis, is a perennial subshrub with grayish leaves, woody stems, and purplish-blue flowers. It has been used for centuries in cooking and traditional medicine. Its flavoring and seasoning properties have made it a suitable and common addition in preparing many foods. It has a savory and mild peppery flavor.
Britain has listed sage among the essential herbs alongside rosemary, parsley, and thyme for many years. Sage is common in many European cuisines, particularly Italian, Middle Eastern, and Balkan cookery. For example in Italian cuisine, sage is used for seasoning saltimbocca and other dishes. In British and American cooking, sage is a traditional accompaniment to roast chicken or turkey during special occasions such as Thanksgiving day or Christmas.
In recent years, numerous research studies about sage have been conducted, proving it to have a wealth of pharmacological functions, including anticancer, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties, etc.
21. Salted Plums
Salted plums, also known as saladitos, are common in Mexico and China. Salted plums are gray and juicy with a sweet or sour taste. They boost the body’s overall immunity and assist in the maintenance of healthy bowel movements.
Salted plums are believed to help in weight loss as they keep your stomach full for longer. Other cultures also embrace salted plums for various reasons. For example, the Japanese eat them to enhance their athletic performance and fighting energy.
Salted plums are available in multiple flavors such as ginseng, spicy, salty, and creamy.
Fresh truffles are gray subterranean fungi or underground mushrooms that live on tree roots. According to ancient scripts of 2000 BC, fresh truffles have medicinal properties.
Fresh truffles have three flavors, earth-like, garlic-like, and game-like flavors and a bold musk-like aroma. The savory flavors and musky smell make fresh truffles one of the most refined gray-colored foods. However, they are eaten only once in a blue moon due to their pungent aroma and high price.
Fresh truffles contain various nutrients such as proteins, calcium, phosphorus, and iron. They are also said to have antioxidant and anti-microbial properties.
23. Yellow Dragon Fruit
Although it has a yellow rind, the dragon fruit’s core is gray. It is a cactus species with thorns but the fruit has a sweet taste.
Dragon fruits have many health benefits; they are good phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium sources. They have small amounts of vitamin A & C, iron, and niacin. They are also high in antioxidants, dietary fiber and contain more calcium than red dragon fruits.
Due to their low-calorie content, they make a suitable slimming diet for people aiming to lose weight.
24. Yellow Grapefruits
Yellow grapefruits have yellow outer coverings, but their cores differ from gray to orange or red. Yellow grapefruits are nutritionally-dense fruits with low calories.
They are loaded with vitamins C and A which boost the immune system. They also contain calcium and iron, so including them in your diet will give you plenty of benefits.
25. Yellow Passion Fruit
Yellow passion fruit comes with a yellow rind or orange rind, depending on where it grows. It has white flesh and a lump of gray seeds in a pulp. The seeds could also be dark gray or black, making the pulp appear gray.
These passion fruits are rich in nutrients, including vitamin A, contain dietary fiber, packed with antioxidants, and don’t cause a spike in blood sugar levels (they have a low glycemic index).
Like other passion fruit varieties, yellow passion thrives throughout tropical and subtropical regions worldwide.
26. Yubari King
Yubari king is a hybrid cantaloupe consisting of two cultivars. It is exclusively grown in greenhouses in the Yubari region, Japan.
Yubari king has gray net-like skin. Its inner part is succulent flesh with an exquisite flavor and rich fragrance. This Japanese cantaloupe is very rich in vitamin A and vitamin C. It also contains calcium, vitamin K, iron, and B vitamins.
Yubari King is currently the most expensive melon globally because only the rich have access to it.
27. Wood Apple
Also known as elephant apple, wood apple is a unique fruit found in South Asia. It has a hard gray outer covering, but its flesh is brown and pulpy with a distinctive smell and taste.
Though a peculiar fruit, wood apples are very nutritious. It contains crude fiber, vitamin C, calcium, and many other minerals. It is considered a super fruit with many health benefits including improving organ movement and metabolism, muscle repair, blood purification, blood sugar control, and digestion.
Wood apples can be consumed plain raw, mixed with honey, or processed. They can also be used to produce chutneys and jams.