MARY BRASWELL: A look at things associated with the color red

From apples to stop signs, red is the color of many things.

Mary Braswell

Mary Braswell

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Red heart-shaped candy boxes are common this time of year but what else is associated with the color red? Here is a sampling of answers to that question.

Food and Drink

— A favorite apple variety was discovered in 1875 as a chance seedling growing on Jesse Hiatt’s farm in Peru, Iowa. Thinking it was a nuisance, Hiatt tried to chop down the seedling, but the tree grew back repeatedly and was finally allowed to grow and make fruit. In 1893, Hiatt took his apple, which he called the Hawkeye, to a fruit show in Missouri. Following the show, the rights to market the apple were sold and the new owner renamed it Red Delicious.

— One of the earliest known benefits of the red beet is its use as an aphrodisiac during the Roman times. Beets contain high amounts of boron, which is directly related to the production of human sex hormones. Beets also contain betaine, a substance that relaxes the mind and is used in other forms to treat depression and trytophan, which is also found in chocolate and contributes to a sense of well being.

— Tart cherries contain melatonin, a hormone that helps make a person feel sleepy. Two tablespoons of tart cherry juice has been shown in studies to be just as effective as a melatonin supplement as a sleep aide. One cup of cherries contains three grams of fiber and is fat, sodium and cholesterol-free.

— Red meat is an excellent source of protein and energy and fatty acids in lean meat can help protect against heart disease. While reducing fats in the diet will lessen the risk of heart diseases, the keyword is “lean” when eating red meat.

— According to the USDA, Americans eat 22-24 pounds of tomatoes per person, per year. About half of that comes in the form of ketchup and tomato sauce.

Radishes were a part of the wages received by the Egyptian laborers who built the Pyramids.

Pomegranate seeds are excellent sources of dietary fiber which is entirely contained in the edible seeds. Every pomegranate is composed of exactly 840 seeds, each surrounded by a sac of sweet-tart juice contained by a thin skin.

— Kool-Aid was invented by Edwin Perkins of Nebraska. What started as a drink syrup became the powered product we now know in the late 1920s. Of the original six flavors of the five-cent (makes two quarts) packages, two were red (cherry and strawberry).

— It is the grape skins that are responsible for the color spectrum of red wine which begins to lose its color as it ages. According to the U.S. dietary guidelines, there are 100 calories in a five-ounce glass of red wine.

— A 12-oz. can of Mountain Dew Code Red has 54 mg. of caffeine. A can of Cherry Coke has 34 mg. of caffeine.

Here a red, there a red

— Red is commonly associated with flames and fire, but flames are almost always yellow, orange or blue.

— Red is a symbol of martyrs and sacrifice, mainly because of its association with blood. Beginning in the Middle Ages, the Pope and Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church wore red to symbolize the blood of Christ and Christian martyrs.

— In the novel “The Red Badge of Courage” by Stephen Crane, a story about the Civil War, the red badge was the blood from a wound, proof of a soldier’s courage.

— Red is the symbolic color of the heart and the rose and is closely associated with romantic love and Valentine’s Day.

— In Saudi Arabia, in 2002 and again in 2011, religious police banned the sale of all Valentine’s Day items, telling shop workers to remove all red items, as the day is considered a Christian holiday.

— Red is the color of celebration and ceremony as is evident when red carpet is used to welcome distinguished guests.

— In most cases, the color of seats in opera houses and theaters is red.

Santa Claus traditionally wears red, because the original Saint Nicholas was a bishop of the Greek Christian church in the 4th century and that was the color worn by them.

— In mythology, red was the color of Mars, the god of war. The planet Mars was named for him because of its red color.

— Red is the color most frequently associated with hatred, anger and aggression. People who are angry are said to “see red.”

— At the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals in 1968, red was adopted as the international color of stop signs and stop lights on roads.

— Red is used as the highest level of warning, such as the threat level of a terrorist attack or water conditions at the beach.

Red hair occurs naturally in approximately one to two percent of the human population.

— Blood appears red when it has contact with oxygen.

— The most common synthetic food coloring today is Allura Red AC. It was originally manufactured from coal tar, but now is mostly made from petroleum.

— A ruby is a pink to blood-red colored gemstone, whose color comes mostly from the presence of the element chromium. The ruby is considered one of the four precious stones, including the sapphire, the emerald and the diamond.

— A red-light district is a part of a city or town where there is a concentration of prostitution. The term originates from the red lights that were once used as signs of brothels.

Where’d it come from?

To be caught red-handed means to be caught doing something wrong. This saying originated because of a law that stated if someone butchered an animal that didn’t belong to him, he had to be caught with the animal’s blood on his hands to be convicted. Being caught with freshly cut meat did not make the person guilty.

Calendars were once made by hand in monasteries or convents. Scribes would emphasize days of Saints or other important events by using a reddish ink made from ocher, a mineral of oxide of iron. A quick look at the calendar easily showed upcoming red-letter days.

In days before computers, bank statements of customers included figures in red when an account was overdrawn putting that person’s financial status in the red.

In a song

“Li’l Red Riding Hood” by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs (1966)

“Red Rubber Ball” by The Cyrkle (1966)

“1,2,3 Red Light” by the 1910 Fruitgum Company (1968)

“Red, Red Wine” by Neil Diamond (1968)


d) Ted Nugent