What the fuck IS this mystical fruit?
Blue raspberry. You won’t find one in the produce department. It sounds like a fruit, but really we all know it as an artificial candy flavor that has the power to dye your mouth/lips/tongue blue.
Fruits are already adorable, so the idea of a totally made-up fruit that only exists in the form of candy and is of the color blue (which is virtually never found edibly in the natural world–we’ll discuss more later) is basically the cutest thing ever, and that’s what sparked this obsession in the first place. But do blue raspberries have any basis in reality? Who made these up and why? And is the flavor the same as regular raspberry? And what about blueberries? Here are some answers to the many questions surrounding these mystical blue-colored fruits. Spoiler alert: it involves Otter Pops, cancerous food dyes, and yes, actual berries!!!!
It allegedly all began with Fla-Vor-Ice ice pops, which premiered in 1969, followed by Otter Pops (basically the same thing but a different brand),which premiered as a copycat in 1970. You know, those super corn-syrupy “popsicles” that aren’t on sticks and instead are plastic-sealed tubes of sweet, colorful liquid? And you weirdly buy them at room temperature (hence the liquid form), and THEN stick them in the freezer at your leisure (weird)? Anyway, these things (as most fruity candies do) had many flavors that called for food dyes of the color red, namely strawberry, cherry, watermelon, and of course, our darling raspberry.
Thankfully for them, different shades of affordable red food dye were plentiful enough to keep up with ice pops’ flavor variety–and a dye called Amaranth (aka FD&C Red No. 2) was used to achieve the deep red color that distinguished the raspberry pops. All was well in ice pops land until suddenly, in 1976, the very respectable folks at the FDA announced that, oopsie, FD&C Red No. 2 is super carcinogenic! ! ! ! ! DUN DUN DUNNN. Oh MY, what a silly mistake, however could this have happened?!? Anyway, with Amaranth off the market, the ice pops people were left with one red food dye too few, or one red fruit flavor too many. This was a problem… but soon came a solution:
~ * ~ * ~*Enter the BLUE RASPBERRY* ~ * ~ * ~
A non-FDA-banned blue food dye called Brilliant Blue FCF (aka FD&C Blue No. 1) was at their fingertips, but not in use due to not having an accompanying fruit flavor… until they decided to merge Brilliant Blue FCF with raspberry! But instead of using the regular raspberry flavor, they based this new version on the apparently unpopular fruit of the Rubus leucodermis plant, AKA the “whitebark raspberry.” Now, this is still crazy, because whitebark raspberries are NOT blue (they’re red to reddish-purple as babies, then turn dark purple to nearly black when ripe), so yeah, this doesn’t make any sense. In any case, the blue raspberry color/flavor duo was born (!!!) and then took off from there, and it is now the mouth-dyeing flavor of candy we all know and love.
Just kidding, there are obviously still some mysteries at hand, some of which I’ve possibly solved, but all of which I’ve formulated as FAQs:
If blue raspberry’s flavor is really based on whitebark raspberries, why the hell doesn’t anyone eat THOSE if they taste so good??
We don’t know. Maybe they taste like shit and this whole thing is a sham. Or maybe some people do eat them? There are people on the internet touting this plant as suitable to use in pies and jams, AND I read on a comment forum (i.e. 1000% not a credible source) that they used to be the most common berry in the U.S., but got left behind in popularity due to other berries growing more consistently in an agricultural setting. Actually, that sounds legit, let’s go with it.
If this alleged explanation is true, why the FUCK didn’t the ice pops people just use Brilliant Blue food dye to go with BLUEBERRY flavoring???
I know, what the fuck, none of this makes sense. Someone on Reddit says “I am in the process of starting my own website making electronic cigarette e-juice and i have experimented with artificial food flavorings, and typically the natural tasting blueberry food flavorings have been very chemically- almost like a cough syrup.” Hm, I’m fairly down with this. I mean, we don’t see too many blueberry-flavored candies, do we? I don’t know, this is the only answer I could find, I’m sorry, it’s really just unsolved.
Are blueberries actually even bluE?????
Glad you asked. Technically not. Sorry. It’s agreed among science and nutritional people that blueberries are actually indigo or deep purple in color. The white, waxy coating that naturally appears on the skin of the berries can make them look more true blue in color skin-wise, but they’re not. Just look at a stain from the juice of a blueberry–not blue. And this leads me into another slightly-related, equally puzzling quandary about blue foods themselves…
MYSTERIOUS: Blue, Food, and Blue Foods
I read somewhere a long time ago that children were more likely to want to eat a food that is blue (i.e. processed, artificially-dyed trash). This has been echoed in various sources as discovered through my research, and it’s also important to note that the color blue dominates when it comes to the packaging of food marketed toward children–as well as processed snack food packaging in general–I smell a brainwash. And apparently it works! In this news story, a “master chef” named Bonnie Moore says “In my experience kids do like blue food … They go crazy when they see food that is blue.” And anyone remember in 1995 when M&Ms ran that campaign to have the public choose what the first new color of M&M would be? Of course, we chose blue, CAUSE WE FUCKING LOVE BLUE FOOD.
But this is strange, because edible blue things rarely (if EVER, depending on who you talk to) occur in nature, and therefore, evolutionarily, we should be (and are generally agreed to be) repelled by blue foods–or at least not have an automatic appetite response to them. Like, it’s basically in our DNA. One study showed that people felt physically ill after discovering that the food they’d just consumed had been dyed blue (they ate under special lighting that disguised its true color until the end). In color psychology, blue is widely known as an appetite-suppressing color, and there are janky weight-loss tips online about eating off blue plates or painting your kitchen blue to curb your appetite. Gary Blumenthal of International Food Strategies (a “food professional”) confirms this, saying: “…almost universally it is difficult to get a consumer to try a blue-colored food — though more are being marketed for children these days.” BUT WHY, WHY DO WE LOVE IT SO?