What Makes Strawberries Red?

Strawberries are now in season every season which means you can enjoy them fresh at any point during the year. And if strawberries are your favorite fruit and you eat them often, then you might have wondered things about them such as how healthy they are, what vitamins they have, what they’re good for or what makes them red.

Really: what makes strawberries red? Where do strawberries get their color from? Why are strawberries red when ripe instead of another color like blue or purple or yellow or black? Are there other colors for strawberries aside from red? How do strawberries come to be red?

What makes strawberries red

What color are strawberries?

You’d think this question has a straightforward and simple answer. Well, not quite. Strawberries are generally described as being red when ripe, but not all strawberries are red, or the same red. There are dozens and dozens of different cultivated varieties of strawberry. The range of plant cultivars results in fruits that are deep red when ripe, fruits that are more of a pink-red and fruits that are a paler red or pink color. There are even white strawberries.

How do strawberries come to be red?

Strawberries, like most other foods, start out green, pale green to be more exact. But once they mature and begin to ripen, they start to change color. As this happens, specific pigments determined genetically are produced and begin to accumulate in the fruit. These pigments ultimately determine the red and pink-red color of ripe strawberries.

Where does the color in strawberries come from?

Anthocyanins are pH-sensitive so the same compound may appear red and pink in acidic environments, and purple in neutral.

What makes strawberries red is a class of organic pigments called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are known as antioxidants and healthful compounds. But they’re also natural pigments. Anthocyanins are present naturally in most plants, edible and non-edible too, and are responsible for colors ranging from pink, pink-red, red and orange-red to blue, black, purple and violet. Most of the anthocyanins in ripe strawberries are pink and red which is essentially what makes strawberries red when ripe.

Why are strawberries red

Why are strawberries red?

There is a simple explanation for this: strawberries are red because they naturally produce red pigments. They also produce purple pigments, but they produce a lot more red pigments than purple so the dominant color in the ripe fruit is red, or some shade of red. Strawberries that produce a little more purple pigment may appear a darker or deeper red, but the dominant color is still red.

What pigments make strawberries red?

Red strawberries have predominantly red anthocyanin pigments, but also minor purple anthocyanin pigments.

Anthocyanins are a big class of natural pigments. There are hundreds of them, maybe more. They are the pigments largely responsible for the color of ripe red strawberries. The majority are red, and some are also purple.

According to research, pelargonidin 3-O-glucoside, also called Callistephin, is the dominant anthocyanin pigment in red strawberries and what makes them look as red as they do. The second most common pigment in red strawberries is and cyanidin-3-glucoside, also called Chrysanthemin. There is also pelargonidin-3-O-rutinoside (source 1, source 2).

These two pigments largely responsible for the color of red strawberries are also partly responsible for the color of red wine and grape juice, pomegranates and pomegranate juice, the color of red raspberries and red raspberry juice, red oranges and orange juice, red plums, peaches, but also darker fruits such as purple plums, elderberries, acai berries, black grapes, black rice and purple corn.

Four purple minor pigments in red strawberries include: catechin(4alpha –> 8)pelargonidin 3-O-beta-glucopyranoside, epicatechin(4alpha –> 8)pelargonidin 3-O-beta-glucopyranoside, afzelechin(4alpha –> 8)pelargonidin 3-O-beta-glucopyranoside and epiafzelechin(4alpha –> 8)pelargonidin 3-O-beta-glucopyranoside (source).

Why are strawberries red instead of another color?

Well, strawberries are not just red – there are white strawberries too. But red strawberries are red when ripe because it’s in their genes to turn red as the fruit reaches maturity. That is, strawberries are genetically determined to turn red when ripe.

Specific genes in strawberries determine their color – as the fruit ripens, the genes tell the fruit to start producing red pigments and those pigments accumulate giving the ripe strawberry its specific color at full maturity.

This post was updated on Friday / November 12th, 2021 at 8:01 PM