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The mystery of the cooked red cabbage: why does it turn blue in Murcia and purple in Asturias?

The water that comes out of the tap in the different parts of Spain has different characteristics and it can surprise us when using it in the kitchen.

If we know red cabbage for something in Spain, it is around Christmas. Eating this vegetable is one of the healthiest customs of this season, but also one of the least popular. However, this purple cabbage may also sound like the mixes of sprouts and salad leaves that are already prepared in supermarket bags.

Although the food of purple color can cause distrust to some consumers because it does not have a very frequent color, it is very healthy. These foods are purple in color because they contain pigments, which are called anthocyanins, which have an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect. This substance has been linked to certain benefits for cardiovascular health and also as prevention against cancer.

Of course, anthocyanins are very easily diluted in water or lose their effects with the heat of cooking. Therefore, although red cabbage is healthy cooked in many ways, it is better to take it raw to preserve as much of these substances as possible. For this purpose, its leaves can be cut, washed, and later incorporated into a salad.

Purple or blue

In any case, cooking this vegetable is also a common procedure when treating this food. Although that cooking takes away some nutrients, it also improves your digestion. One of the most curious things that happen when a red cabbage is cooked is to observe how the water in which the vegetables have been submerged acquires the bright color that characterizes this healthy food.

However, this does not happen in the same way in all places. The doctor in Food Science and Technology, Miguel Ángel Lurueña, has explained on his Twitter profile that in some places the water where we cook the red cabbage can turn purple and in others, blue. How is this possible? The answer lies in the different characteristics of the water that comes out of the tap in two specific places.

In any case, cooking this vegetable is also a common procedure when treating this food. Although that cooking takes away some nutrients, it also improves your digestion. One of the most curious things that happen when a cabbage is cooked is to observe how the water in which the vegetables have been submerged acquires the bright color that characterizes this healthy food.

However, this does not happen in the same way in all places. The doctor in Food Science and Technology, Miguel Ángel Lurueña, has explained on his Twitter profile that in some places the water where we cook the red cabbage can turn purple and in others, blue. How is this possible? The answer lies in the different characteristics of the water that comes out of the tap in two specific places.
For example, the cooking water for red cabbage in Gijón is purple, but that of Murcia is blue. Gijón water is a neutral solution, which means that its pH is close to 7, and Murcia water is basic, its pH is below 7. Murcia’s basic water, in this sense, interacts with the anthocyanins in red cabbage and this causes it to turn bluish.

Colors and nutrients

You may have wondered if drinking more basic water is harmful: according to Lurueña, no. “In fact, it provides more minerals like calcium and magnesium.” The red cabbage cooked in this water is not worse than the one cooked in neutral water, it will simply have a more bluish color. Of course, being a rare pigment in nature, it can seem unpleasant at first glance.

It is not necessary that we get rid of the water in which we cook the red cabbage because it can be used as a natural coloring of a good amount of foods such as rice, fresh pasta, mayonnaise or the béchamel of some croquettes. Although they will not add too many nutrients to recipes, it is a simple and natural trick to add color to certain foods and cook creatively.

According to the Spanish Nutrition Foundation (FEN), red cabbage provides about 27 kilocalories per 100 grams. The main reason why it is such a low energy food is that it contains more than 92% water. Its greatest contribution is carbohydrates, followed by fiber and proteins. FEN also highlights its content in vitamin C, another substance that also loses its healthy effects when cooked at high temperatures.

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