Fruits come in a rainbow of colors – from the familiar reds, greens, and yellows of apples, grapes, and bananas to the more exotic purples, oranges, and even blues of certain berries, citrus fruits, and tropical offerings. But are there any true gray fruits found in nature or cultivated for consumption?
What Makes a Fruit Gray
For a fruit to appear gray, it must contain pigments that absorb most visible wavelengths of light except gray. There are a few potential sources of gray coloration in fruits:
- Anthocyanins – These pigments produce blue, purple, and red colors in plants. In high concentrations, anthocyanins can combine to create dark gray or black shades.
- Tannins – Found in some berries and fruits, tannins create a brownish-gray hue.
- Natural wax coatings – A dense layer of natural wax on the surface of some fruits can create a dusty gray appearance.
- Optical effects – Structural properties of the fruit skin/flesh can create optical effects that make the fruit appear gray.
The most common way for a fruit to be gray is through the presence of high levels of anthocyanin pigments. Let’s look at some examples of truly gray fruits found in nature.
The black sapote (Diospyros nigra) is a fruit native to eastern Mexico, Central America, and parts of the Caribbean. When ripe, the flesh inside this round, green-skinned fruit turns a striking dark gray or black color.
The black sapote owes its unique coloration to very high levels of anthocyanins. In addition to being gray/black when ripe, the flesh of the black sapote is soft and creamy with flavors described as a cross between chocolate pudding and sweet potato.
African Horned Melon
The African horned melon (Cucumis metuliferus) is an oval-shaped melon native to Africa. It has distinctive spiked yellow “horns” on the outer skin. When ripe, the inside of the fruit is green with white seeds immersed in soft, gooey, grayish-green flesh.
The African horned melon goes by many exotic names like jelly melon, hedged gourd, melano, and kiwanos. The combination of anthocyanins, chlorophyll, and carotenoids in the flesh gives this fruit its unique gray-green interior color.
Also called the vegetable pear, chayote (Sechium edule) is a gourd grown in Central America and parts of the United States. Some varieties of chayote have light green skin and crisp, pale green flesh. But others have rough, almost warty skin and grayish-white flesh when cut open.
The edible seed inside chayote is also pale gray-white in many chayote cultivars. A relative of summer squashes and melons, the chayote owes its grayish tones to lower chlorophyll levels than in green-fleshed variants.
Are Gray Avocados Real?
There are some rumors floating around the internet about exotic gray-fleshed avocados. Some say these avocados grow wild in Borneo, while others claim gray avocado varieties exist in South America.
While intriguing, these accounts of gray avocados are likely unfounded. Avocados contain yellow-green pigments called carotenoids in the flesh. There are no known naturally-occurring varieties of avocado that produce enough anthocyanins to create gray flesh. Any photoshopped images of sliced gray avocados are fake.
Why Are Some Fruits Grayish?
Now that we’ve looked at some actually gray fruits, let’s examine why certain fruits can develop a grayish cast even if they aren’t considered truly gray. Here are some reasons a fruit might take on grayish hues:
- Bruising – Injury to the fruit flesh causes oxidation and enzyme reactions that can turn the area gray.
- Freezing damage – Ice crystals rupturing cell structures leads to browning and gray cast.
- Sun scald – Exposure to intense sunlight bleaches pigments and creates gray patches.
- Scarring – Scars from insect, mechanical, or pathogen damage can heal over with gray corky tissue.
- Immaturity – Unripe fruits often exhibit more muted, grayish tones before full pigmentation develops.
- Senescence – As fruits age and decompose, the flesh loses vibrancy and becomes watery and gray.
These conditions lead to a dull, grayish appearance in fruits without necessarily producing true anthocyanin-derived gray shades. While unattractive, the grayish areas are harmless if trimmed away.
Common Grayish Fruits
Many fruits can develop grayish areas or a vague gray cast in certain circumstances. Here are some of the most commonly seen grayish fruits:
|Fruit||Grayish Hue Caused By|
|Apples||Bruising, scarring, sunburn|
|Pears||Senescence, chilling injury|
|Berries||Bruising, scarring, high tannins|
|Citrus fruits||Freezing damage, sunburn, scarring|
|Tomatoes||Sun scald, insect damage, immaturity|
The gray areas on these fruits don’t indicate anything seriously wrong. But fully ripe, undamaged fruits with full color are most appealing and flavorful for eating fresh.
Are White Fruits Considered Gray?
What about white fruits like bananas, white peaches, white pineapple, and others? Should they fall under the gray fruit umbrella since white contains all visible light wavelengths?
Botanically, white fruits achieve their color not through pigments but through a total lack of pigmentation. The fruit flesh contains no anthocyanins, carotenoids, or other colored plant compounds.
Therefore, while white fruit may look similar to gray ones visually, they do not contain the same pigment chemistry. White and gray fruits arise from different mechanisms.
Mechanisms Behind White Fruit Color
Three main factors produce white color in fruits:
- Lack of pigment production in the flesh
- Reflective air pockets within the flesh
- Waxy cuticles on the surface
In most cases, white fruits are genetic variants selectively bred to lack anthocyanins or carotenoids. Reflective air pockets and wax coatings further enhance the white appearance.
Health Benefits of Gray Fruits
Many fully pigmented fruits contain antioxidants and other compounds linked to health benefits. But limited research exists on the health effects of gray fruits specifically.
Here is a summary of potential benefits:
- Anthocyanins – Gray fruits rich in anthocyanins may offer similar benefits as blue/purple foods with these pigments.
- Dietary fiber – Fruits like chayote and horned melon provide fiber for healthy digestion.
- Vitamin C – Black sapotes contain significant vitamin C to support immunity.
- Hydration – The high water content of most fruits keeps the body hydrated.
There aren’t any unique health advantages proven for gray fruits specifically. But they can contribute to a healthy, balanced diet like their more colorful counterparts.
While uncommon, a few fruits found in nature do contain enough anthocyanin pigments to create an authentically gray coloration. Examples like black sapote, horned melon, and some chayote cultivars have distinctive gray flesh when cut open.
Gray color in fruit typically signals overripeness, damage, or some other form of compromise. But in naturally gray fruits, it results from high anthocyanin levels and does not affect flavor or ripeness.
There are no exclusive health benefits to gray fruit. But fruits of all colors provide a range of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and plant compounds that support well-being as part of a healthy diet.
So while authentically gray fruits are rare, their unique appearance can add novelty and appeal to adventurous fruit lovers.