What is Brix, How Does a Refractometer Measure It, and How Good Are your Fruits and Veggies?
Would you like to be able to take a measurement of the quality of the produce that you buy in the store or grow in your garden? My husband Kelly came home recently from a meeting about permaculture-type gardening with a couple of new words we didn’t know: brix and refractometer.
Brix is a measure of the amount of dissolved solids in a drop or two of juice that you extract–typically with a garlic press–from some produce. A refractometer is a device that will give you the brix reading. Here’s a picture from Flickr of a woman using one. This was from a series of photos about science teachers using them, and it wasn’t for evaluating food quality. Still you get the idea. After you take a drop of what you are testing and put it in the refractometer, you look through the device and read a scale.
So evidently, from the reading I did around the internet, the higher the brix score, the better the produce. Here’s an article that explains what brix is and why it matters. This is from a website where the people are passionate about brix, and I found quite a few places online where that is true. On another page at that same site, where it says “brix-chart.pdf” you can download a PDF file with a chart for a variety of fruits, vegetables, and grasses giving poor, average, good, and excellent brix scores for each. I downloaded it and printed it out. For example, apples go from a Brix score of 6 to 18, where broccoli is 6 to 12.
Luckily, refractometers can be inexpensive. (More expensive ones can be used for a variety of things including making wine and beer.) Here is the one we are buying at Amazon… Kelly chose it because it was one of the least expensive ones and it had good reviews:
Once it arrives and we have a chance to try it with a variety of vegetables and fruits, I’ll do another post. I’m curious to try it with organic produce that is locally grown, which we can get at our local food coop, and both organic and conventional produce from chain stores. We don’t have anything growing yet in our garden, since we moved here a few months ago and it’s mid-winter as I write this.
One article I liked from a gardening blog explains brix and refractometers. I also enjoyed some of the knowledgeable comments from readers near the bottom of the page.
Another webpage I found is evidently a whole short book about brix, on the page so you can read it there. It mentioned a Yahoo group about brix. The group is currently active, so that would be a good place to ask questions that you (or I) can’t find out otherwise. There were interesting discussions there. I got caught up in reading one about what USDA organic standards really mean, and I joined the group.
Measuring brix isn’t the only way to judge produce, of course. There’s taste! But the better the brix scores, the more nutritious all around the produce seems to be. Intriguingly, it is also related to the mineral quality of the soil. I’ll explore that another day.
Here are some videos about it all: