As-salting the greens.

Chlorophyll. Organic acids. Atom and ions. And one very simple trick to keep greens green. 


Salting the greens keeps them green - Green broccoli falling in water on white with air bubbles

1-Minute NomNom

Take a look at a dish with green vegetables. If they are bright green, we are more likely to think it is a delicious dish.

Thai food, kana moo krob.(fried kale mixed crispy pork and egg o

But when we cook green vegetables, they can turn dull green and look unappetizing (maybe that’s why kids don’t like greens?).  How can we make them bright green instead? We can do so by salting the greens!

Plant cell structure (see the chloroplasts? don't worry about the rest)

Plant cell structure (see the chloroplasts? don’t worry about the rest)

The science behind the color change has to do with chlorophyll and the organic acids found in plant cells. Chlorophyll is found in the chloroplasts of plant cells. They are the main green pigment found in green vegetables. When green vegetables are heated, the cells in them start to denature i.e. lose their structure, and the organic acids in the cells leak out.

Chlorophyll chemical formula

Chlorophyll chemical formula

These organic acids then react with the chlorophyll. The magnesium atoms in the chlorophyll are replaced by hydrogen atoms, which causes the vegetables to look dull green. As the original bright green fades, the orange and yellow pigments in the plant become more visible, combining to give the greens a brownish dirty look.

salting the vegetables with baking soda

baking soda

The dull and dirty appearance can be avoided by salting the greens with sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3, also more commonly known as baking soda). The Na ions replace the methyl alcohol (CH3-OH) and phytyl alcohol (C20H40O) groups, forming chlorophyllin.

Chlorophyllin is a bright green pigment, thus turning your cooked vegetables into an appetizing green. When paired with other ingredients and foods, the greens help to make the dishes mouth-wateringly colorful.

Chinese style kang kong vegetables cooked with spicy vegetarian sambal chili sauce.

Adding sodium bicarbonate to water however makes it alkaline. Many vitamins are not stable in an alkaline solution. Hence the trick is to use just a little – literally to take all this with a pinch of salt (of sodium bicarbonate); after all, salting the greens does not mean we assault them with lots of salt!

Feed Me!

What other tips do you have to keep your cooked vegetables looking bright and green? Share them with us in the comments below!


Screen Shot 2015-01-10 at 6.02.39 pmLike this? We might feel in-salted if you don’t like me to discover more. All you need is a minute a day to explore the world’s marvels through the phenomenon of food!

photos: in order – istockphoto/showcake; depositphotos/thiroilroxanabalintPhotonjordachegnohz

Leave a Reply