The Blues: What’s Up with Blue Food?

Why is there no blue food? I can’t find blue food — I can’t find the flavor of blue! I mean, green is lime; yellow is lemon; orange is orange; red is cherry; what’s blue? There’s no blue! “Oh,” they say, “blueberries!” Uh-uh; blue on the vine, purple on the plate. There’s no blue food! Where is the blue food? We want the blue food! Probably bestows immortality! They’re keeping it from us! ~ George Carlin (YouTube here)

Cheese plate 2 rs
Photo credit: C. Bertelsen

The moment I saw it in the shop, the cobalt-blue plate attracted me for some reason. I recall thinking, “Wouldn’t it be terrific to use it for serving blue/bleu cheeses?” But to be honest, I’ve only used it twice, and that’s because my other serving plates were already, well, serving other food. And as for the color, I like blue as a color enough, but for some reason blue seems out of place in the kitchen, at least in my kitchen. And my reaction appears to be backed up by research (Piqueras-Fiszman et al.). Yet, in Morocco, particularly in Fez – for over six centuries – cobalt-blue patterns adorn some of the most beautiful ceramics ever made. I own several pieces, but they’re Art, and not for daily use.

Blue food, not the stuff you eat when you’re feeling blue (see, right off the bat there’s something negative about the color blue in regard to food!), is a rarity in nature, probably because against the prevalent green foliage, blue fruits would not attract the right sort of eaters, the ones that would dutifully disperse the seeds at a later time.  Anthocyanins produce the blue/purple pigmentation seen in these foods, depending on the pH. Food scientists claim that the color blue is an appetite suppressant, and psychologically it makes sense that blue, black, and purplish-hued foods repel humans, because molds and other forms of decay take on those colors.

Any list of blue foods can be short or shorter, depending upon your geographical location and cultural and culinary background. And, getting technical here for a moment, most blue food actually leans toward purple more than the startling blue coloring added to manufactured sweets.

Blue crabs

Blue/bleu cheese (not naturally occurring, but)



Blue potatoes

Blue corn

Blue lobster (very rare)

Blewit (Clitocybe nuda/Lepista nuda) mushroom

Coronation grapes

Taro/poi (more purple), also called Dasheen, or “ground provision” in Tobago, which turns a sort of gun-metal blue-gray when cooked. It is the star of the show at the “Blue Food” festival held in Tobago.


George Carlin’s question proves that comedy sometimes asks the questions that need to be asked. I prefer my blues to be in the form of skies and oceans … .

Blue night rs
Photo credit: C. Bertelsen

For more:

Assessing the Influence of the Color of the Plate on  the Perception of a Complex Food in a Restaurant setting, by Betina Piqueras-Fiszman, Camille Schwartz, Agnes Giboreau, and Charles Spence

The Effects of Food Color on Perceived Flavor, Journal of Marketing, by Lawrence L. Garber, Jr., Eve M. Hyatt, and Richard G. Starr, Jr. (2001)

Managing Images in Different Cultures: A Cross-National Study of Color Meanings and Preferences, Journal of International Marketing, by Thomas J. Madden, Kelly Hewett, and Martin S. Roth. (2000)

© 2013 C. Bertelsen, including all photographs.


  • Lovely photo, Cynthia, that Nocturne in Blue! I’ve seen pictures of thr blue mushroom, but have never eaten any or seen them in stores. A true blue is rare in flowers too. Black and Blue Salvia is one of the most intense I’ve seen in southeast PA. Lobelias too, though they tend to go dormant here in the heat of summer. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a black and blue garden? Once in Memphis, I capped off an art history class I taught on the 1890s with a Black and Blue party, where all the food had to be one or the other or both–we fancied ourselves quite decadent!

    • I’m finding all this fascinating, I have known abut the blue/black food thing before, and the lack of the true colors in nature, too. Your dinner sounds terrific. Do you recall the menu? I imagine squid-ink rice and black olives, for starters. Djon-djon mushrooms from Haiti, stuffed black swan … ???

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