This is not an article about race relations. I am talking about the power of black foods.  People often think about eating plants of various colors, but these usually include only green, red, yellow, and orange. There is also blue, but there aren’t too many blue foods, mainly blueberries and blue grapes. There is also blue corn, but we usually only see that as blue corn chips.

But what about black? You rarely hear about people striving to eat black foods. Is it because black is associated with death?

Well, get that idea out of your head. Black foods are nutritionally loaded, and they deserve a place on the table. Black foods tend to be very high in antioxidants, polyphenols, flavonoids, and they are sky-high in anthocyanidins- higher than blueberries. Let’s consider some of the leading black foods.

Blackberries are related to raspberries, and they grow wild in many parts of the United States, including where I live in Central Texas. Nutritionally, blackberries are as valuable as any other berries. A recent study found that radiation-induced brain damage in rats could be prevented by feeding them blackberries.  They were also found to prevent age-related brain degeneration.  What’s amazing is that blackberries have a very short season in the wild, but commercially, they’re available all year, and mainly from Mexico. And  I observe that they tend to be the least expensive berry the year round. It may be because there is a little bit of grit involved, which makes them less popular, but that’s no big deal.  You get used to it fast. I am eating blackberries right now. I buy them at Costco, and the price and the quality have been excellent. Blackberries may  be the key to yearround berry-eating.

Black grapes are as high in resveratrol and other polyphenols as the more popular red grapes. In fact, there is a variety called Black Beauty which is the highest in resveratrol of all grapes. Black grapes are thicker skinned, so there’s a lot of fiber involved. But perhaps because they are thick-skinned, they keep very well and last a long time. I have seen them both seeded and seedless.  You really should try them.  With the seeded ones, you can either spit out the seeds or chew them up and swallow them- it’s up to you.  Black grapes are also high in quercetin.

Black beans are the most popular bean in Austin, Texas, where I live.  It’s part of the culture here.  In not just the ever-popular Tex-Mex restaurants, but even in the regular cafes and family restaurants, a side of black beans is considered standard fare.  Black beans take to spices very well, particularly cumin.  And they tend to form a rich, tasty broth.  Black bean soup is teeming with flavor and very satisfying.  Nutritionally, black beans are loaded with antioxidants and bioflavonoids. I don’t think I ever had black beans before I moved to Texas, but I sure like them now.

Black rice is something that I have not yet had. I am not referring to wild rice, which can be black. Wild rice is a totally different plant from Asian rice, and it’s good too, although it’s somewhat woody. That may be why people tend to dilute it with regular rice. But, there is also a black Asian rice, which unlike regular rice, is usually eaten unhulled.  In other words, they don’t usually refine it as they do regular rice. And nutritionally, black rice is reportedly much more superior.  Obviously, black rice is not commonly available. Perhaps Asian grocery stores have it. And what about Whole Foods?

Black lentils I have tried, and they are available at Whole Foods.  They are very different from the regular green/brown lentils. They’re much smaller and, in appearance, they almost seem more like a grain than a legume.  But, they cook quickly, and they’re less fibrous,  and like the red lentils, they tend to disintegrate more in cooking. And the flavor is very different although hard to describe.  I know that they are very high in minerals, including zinc and iron, and the nice thing is that they are lower in phytic acid than most legumes.

Black potatoes are making a comeback. These are an heirloom variety, from Peru where all potatoes originated, and they are much more nutritious than the white-fleshed potato. The skins may actually be black, but the flesh is more like purple. But, they are very nice to eat and more distinctively flavored than russets. The russet potato is actually an artificial thing. It’s a hybrid developed by Luther Burbank who wanted this pure, perfect, white-fleshed potato. But, he did not do the world a favor because he reduced the nutritional value. I always prefer to buy potatoes with colored flesh, usually the yellow, since they’re widely available.  The black potatoes are more expensive, but they’re nice for a change.

Black corn I don’t see offered commercially, but I do see the seeds offered for planting. It is an ancient Native American variety that was cultivated by the Lakota Indians.  I may try planting it one year.

I’m sure there are other black foods, but these give you a start. Definitely add black to your list of food colors. It’s a matter of changing your consciousness.  Black is good.