Does color matter?

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

Perhaps my favorite homemade jelly was made from Queen Ann’s lace. I love the novelty … the “wow” factor. I remember a soft floral flavor, the profile one associates with German-style wines. Trouble was, no one ate it. I did for a bit, but it lost its appeal.

I blame that on merchandising; specifically, its colorless appearance. People are attracted to bright colors, and that’s especially important in food. But, not just any color, the colors we associate with the food. For example, ketchup is red like tomatoes. It was a horrible fail when Heinz introduced blue and green ketchup in 2003. Too unnatural.

So what color would we perceive at “natural” for Queen Ann’s Lace jelly? I guess, if I had to choose, I might try a golden yellow much like white-grape jelly. That way it communicates what it is, while adding appeal.

Mint jellyBut, what about mint jelly. On the grocery store shelf it’s Kelly green. In its raw, homemade form it’s yellow. Maybe if you squint you can imagine green?

So, what’s with the bright green color at retail? We associate the color of mint leaves with the color of the herb, and thus the color of the jelly. Hence, commercial mint jelly is green.

As a purist, that leaves me with a dilemma: To color or not to color? I want natural and I want appealing. Can I have both?

A google search on the web, scares me that any/all(?) food coloring causes misbehavior in children and potential for cancer in everyone. Because of that, often undocumented, and possible fear-mongering, many a mommy blogger has directions for homemade, even organic, food dye. But, spinach whizzed in a blender is outside the chemistry of my jelly recipes.

When I surfed onto the site of the slightly alarmist Center of Science in the Public Interest I found a report on food colors. This study seemed to identify green food coloring as among the most benign in a small scale experiment on mice.

Laura

Laura Dobson — master gardener, CSA coordinator, local food advocate — always has dirt under her nails.

I consulted my friend Laura Dobson of Virginia. A certified Master Gardener,  and food purist, she says:

“I would not add food coloring to anything. Period. I don’t care what color something is, even if it looks unappetizing. To me, things that are psychedelic colors have become unappetizing, such as neon orange Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, those frou-frou drinks in all colors of the rainbow or even Gatorade which people actually think is good for them. Ick. There are natural food colorings available, so if you really want to color your mint jelly, then I’d suggest using those.”

To color or not to color? What would you do?

2 thoughts on “Does color matter?

  1. Pingback: 7 Tips for Packaging Herb Liqueurs – The Herb Society of America Blog

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