Flower extract could provide natural food colouring

Friday, 07 June, 2019

Flower extract could provide natural food colouring

With increasing concerns about the health implications of artificial food colouring, researchers are investigating natural alternatives, such as Butterfly Pea flowers.

The flower is native to Southeast Asia, but researchers from the University of Florida are investigating if it will grow in Florida.

“At the UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center (MREC), we are conducting research to position Florida nurserymen and growers to lead the industry in using edible plants and flowers as food colorants and additives,” said Brian Pearson, an Assistant Professor of Environmental Horticulture.

As part of his dissertation, doctoral student Sean Campbell conducted a literature review which resulted in a new UF/IFAS Extension document. This was developed “as a reference for the extraction, processing and storage of the color-changing natural colorants found in butterfly pea flower extract (BPFE)”.

The flower has antioxidant properties that can help prevent against cardiovascular disease, diabetes and ageing. According to the document, BPFE also has the ability to change colour depending on the pH: a normal pH results in a blue colour, lowering the pH with acid such as lime juice creates light purple and raising the pH with alkaline such as the spice saffron creates a green colour.

Scientists at UF/IFAS MREC in Florida are also studying other plants such as hops and skullcap.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Kittiphan

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