Reflection. Air. Chlorophyll. And how water makes green vegetables look brighter.
When you put green vegetables in water, the vegetables seem to look brighter. And if you put them in boiling water for a short while (also known as blanching), you will notice that they are even brighter. Why is that so?
It has to do with the reflection of light and the effect of air and chlorophyll (a chemical in plants that absorbs light). Green vegetables look green because when light falls on them, the chlorophyll in the vegetables absorbs all the colors of the spectrum except green. This is reflected into our eye, and that’s how we see the vegetables as green.
Air, however, masks (i.e. dulls) the green in two ways. First, if the surface of the green vegetables has a layer of surface hairs, these trap air, creating microscopic air pockets. Air reflects all the colors of the spectrum, so this will mask the green that is the only color reflected by the chlorophyll.
At the same time, within the tissues (i.e. group of cells performing a function) of the vegetables are intercellular air pockets. These, too, reflect all the spectrum colors, further dulling the chlorophyll green.
When we dip green vegetables in water, the surface hairs become wet, and the first set of air pockets are removed (until the hairs dry). Subsequently, when we boil them briefly, i.e. blanching, some of the intercellular air pockets will expand, bubble and pop. Without the air pockets in both cases, the green is no longer masked by other colors, and our vegetables look a very bright green.
With water, heat, and popping of hot air, it is now much easier to be green.
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photos: in order – depositphotos/ gnohz; zhuzhu; niki2die4; changephoto