Natural Ways to Color Your Food
By Lindsay Springer, Gardyn Food Scientist
Lindsay has written for the Gardyn blog and online publications such as Redfin.
It’s the week when just about anything can turn green, from festive green attire and costumes to milkshakes, bagels, beer, desserts, and even heads of hair. While artificial food coloring tends to dominate the scene, there are plenty of natural ways to add some green (and nutrition!) this week. We are, of course, talking about plants.
But first, what exactly is the green stuff in plants?
The answer is Chlorophyll.
The most abundant natural pigment on earth, you can find it in green plants, cyanobacteria, and algae. Chlorophyll is critical for photosynthesis– the process by which plants use sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water to make energy while giving off oxygen.
Chlorophyll absorbs energy in the red and blue visible spectrum (colors humans can see), while simultaneously reflecting green light. Hence the lovely green colors found in nature and on your Gardyn. But Chlorophyll isn’t the only colored pigment in plants. Carotenoids (yellow, orange, red), different phenolic species (reds, purples, browns), and other photosystem pigments, in addition to Chlorophyll, make a spectrum of colors ranging from limey yellow to jade to olive green and even burgundy.
But let's get back to green bagels.
While green salads and smoothies are an excellent healthy choice to celebrate with green, there are a few natural ways to green-up other foods and beverages without artificial dyes. Below are 3 of our favorites.
Made from ground, young, green tea leaves, Matche is loaded with antioxidants, including EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate). Various health benefits have been linked to EGCG, including lowering cholesterol and preventing chronic diseases (cancer, diabetes). Higher grade matche powders will typically provide a vibrant bright green color, while lower grades will look more yellow or brown. Of the three greens listed here, matche is the mildest in flavor.
Freshly blended Wheatgrass from your Gardyn can be an excellent option to add some green goodness. Noted for its antioxidants, Wheatgrass can also decrease inflammation, aid in detoxification, and reduce the risk of chronic disease. The grassy flavor of Wheatgrass tends to complement the earthy or citrusy notes of dry hopped beers, most notably IPAs. You may want to strain the excess fiber after blending/juicing for a smoother texture.
A dried form of blue-green algae, Spirulina powder is a single-celled microbe boasting a complete protein profile (all essential amino acids), a wide array of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, omega 6 and 3 fatty acids, and antioxidants. A little bit of spirulina goes a long way in color and flavor so take baby steps with this one. Expect a deep, dark forest or emerald green color. Too much spirulina may impart a fishy flavor (hence the baby steps). Fun fact- you can now buy a natural blue phytocyanin derived from spirulina for a bright blue color.
Note: If you’re experimenting with carbonated beverages, it’s wise to start with your glass only half full since these powders may kick off some extra foaming action. Once you’re able to mix the powder or liquid in fully, slowly add in the rest of your carbonated beverage to avoid spilling (you’re welcome in advance).
To celebrate with more green we are welcoming a new green fruiting crop to our Plant Portfolio this week. Can you guess what it is?
Hint: the flowers are pink and white!
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