Red-Purple Anthocyanins and Pale Anthoxanthins

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
The usually reddish anthocyanins and their pale yellow cousins, the anthoxanthins, are chlorophyll’s opposites. They’re naturally water-soluble, so they always bleed into the cooking water. They too are sensitive to pH and to the presence of metal ions, but acidity is good for them, metals bad. And where chlorophyll just gets duller or brighter according to these conditions, the anthocyanins change color completely! This is why we occasionally see red cabbage turn blue when braised, blueberries turn green in pancakes and muffins, and garlic turn green or blue when pickled. (The betacyanins and betaxanthins in beets and chard are different compounds and somewhat more stable.)