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BellaOnline's Personal Chef Editor


How To Preserve Vegetable Colors

Guest Author - Jason Hodge

There's probably nothing worse than preparing a great meal that you've gotta mentally psyche yourself up to eat. Can you imagine what goes through a clients' mind if your food looks off color and dead?
I can; and it's not pretty.

When fixing your meals there are a few things that you should keep in mind to preserve all of the great color while not losing on flavor. Fruits and vegetables have different chemicals that give them their coloring. These same chemicals react to different things in different ways. In this article we'll discuss what those chemical groupings are, how they affect your produce and most importantly how you can protect them from fading.

Here's a quick legend of your basic chemical groupings and where they are predominate:

Carotenoids - orange and yellow produce
Chlorophyll - green produce
Flavonoids - purple, red, golden and white fruits and veggies
Oxidation & Enzymatic Browning - oxidated produce

What I love about carotenoid rich foods is their flexibility in the cooking process. Whereas I don't recommend your cooking them in a lot of water [they have a lot of water soluble nutrients you can lose on while cooking them in too much water], I do like that they can be cooked in or out of acid mediums without losing their vibrant colors. You just want to make sure that if you are adding acid and you don't want them too firm that you don't add your acid until at least halfway through their cooking process. Acids tend to toughen things up.
Carotenoids can be found in large concentrations in your orange and yellow fruits and vegetables, like sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash and pumpkins.

The green pigment of your produce. Full of blood building and tissue cleansing goodness, chlorophyll can be damaged by too much heat, acid and oxidation. I love the look and flavor of bright greens that have been treated well. When you're dealing with preserving those vibrant green hues try cooking them in acid-free fast heat. If you're cooking in water, makes sure it's a good amount, salted and uncovered to allow the minimal levels of acid to evaporate with the steam. This is how I like to approach my green leafies. Salted water, rapid boil, 3 to 5 minute submersion and an ice bath to stop the cooking process and lock in the color. Then I finish it off in a skillet with some garlic, onion a sauce or some oil and seasonings. You've got the color, fresh crispness, the flavor and all's well with the world.
Tip: Keep acid sauces and drizzles at bay until just before serving.

Red beets, purple cabbage and kale, cauliflower, mushrooms, turnips and parsnips all have something in common... They love an acid medium present in their cooking; and they all have those rich vascular protecting, anti-inflammatory flavonoids. I've always been told to have a colorful meal for the best health. Research is now catching up with that wisdom. They're finding that the colors in each food have great health value and significance and that we'd be all the better for eating a diverse group of fruits, vegetables, nuts seeds, roots and grains and varying combinations.

Oxidation & Enzymatic Browning
There's no bigger turn off than avocados, apples, potatoes or bananas that have oxidized and turned brown. Not only does the browning compromise the flavors, but getting beyond the aesthetics of it is a real mind job. One that's is more difficult than others. There are a couple methods I use to keep this from happening:
Rub the produce with a cut lemon, lime or pineapple wedge. Submerge in acidulated water [water to which acid has been added - i.e. vinegar, lemon. lime, pineapple juice, etc.]. This will keep your produce, that's susceptible to oxidative discoloration, from turning an unappetizing shade of brown.

Hope this information was not only informative but helpful as well.

As always, it's my pleasure to share these tips with you. Until next time...

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