Brix Question & Answer   Table 1
Is brix the same as minerals Tips on roadside buying "Walking on air"
Is brix only sugar Fuzzy factor Brix uniformity
Can brix be translocated in the plant Fuzzy factor II Anti-Brix article
Does garden music help Whole brix numbers "Neutral" brix report
Is YOUR farm "bug free" Can you prove brix=taste? Who invented hand brixmeters?
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Question:  Could someone explain whether it is known that higher Brix fruits/vegetables have higher mineral and protein contents, or is it only known that they have higher sugar/flavor components?

Answer:  I've been asked this many times and the short answer is that I'm unaware of any charts or tables that bluntly state something along the lines of "6 Brix tomatoes have 49mg of this, 75mg of that, and 100mg of the other."

But I can tell you that I had a grower friend whose 14-15 brix strawberries weighed 13-14 pounds per flat even as the nearby 7 brix N-P-K fertilized berries were running 7-8 pounds per flat.  I just assumed the extra weight was extra minerals at 165 pounds per cubic foot, rather than water at 62.4 pounds per cubic foot.

Perhaps the Japanese buyers that paid to have them shipped to Tokyo (at about $1 per berry) were wasting their money.  They could have saved on the airfreight charges by buying the light-weight watery berries so commonly grown (and that have to have enormous amounts of chemical pest protection).

No, I can't provide a table that says a 30 brix pineapple has so many ounces of minerals, but I  can tell you that I, you, or anyone else can pick up two different fruits and tell the higher brix pineapple by it's heft.  Rightly or wrongly, I've always assumed that extra heft might be minerals at 165 pcf instead of water at 62 pcf.

Sorry, but I can't provide a table that proves high brix forage has a certain mineral poundage per ton, but I can tell you that animals fed on high brix fields won't be pushing fences over to get at the mineral box a neighbor had to install because his grass was such lousy low brix his animals were suffering.

I can only add that Dr. Albrecht found animals in highly-mineralized pastures had dramatically stronger and heavier bones than those grazing in low quality (low brix) fields.  Rightly or wrongly, I consider any vegetation that allows better bone mineralization probably has more minerals (by far).  If you read the Brix Site and Weston Prices's work, you should be aware that if kids don't get adequate minerals they will have to have their wisdom teeth pulled and wear braces.  That's because their mineral-starved dental arch doesn't round out and provide space for the 32 teeth nature bequeathed us.  You can look in the little one's mouths and see braces coming years in advance.

I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t currently have what you've asked for.  I'll surely post such data as soon as it becomes publicly available.  Actually, I suspect such data may be collected unofficially by those folks operating food laboratories.  If that's true, we'll have a real breakthrough if one ever goes public.

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Question:  For a lot of fruit, sunlight, temperature and length of time before picking seems to affect the amount of sugars dramatically. Do we know that levels of minerals and proteins are associated with sugar levels, or is this just assumed?

Answer:  Remember, Brix is not sugar.  However, sugar is one component of brix.  Reams found the brix of properly grown crops tends to be 50% sugar/50% minerals, whereas most Departments of Agriculture find brix in NPK commercial crops to be 75% sugar/25% minerals.  As I've explained before, sugar is the fundamental building block that the plant combines with soil minerals to make aminoacids, proteins, hormones, and other life goodies.

However, nothing I could possibly say here can have 1% of the dramatic effect that biting down into a high brix fruit can do.  There is a difference between perception & belief on the one hand and true knowledge on the other.  Tasting high brix produce triggers a billion year old response in a person: they instantly *know* the item is good for them.  And what is good for them is the minerals they have not ordinarily been getting.

As someone who recently bought a refractometer and started home testing said, "What an eye opener!"  Indeed, looking through a screen and first getting that visual validation is a true eye opener.

No, there is no chart showing minerals vis-a-vis a certain brix level.  For that matter, there is no chart showing mineral levels in *any* produce.  You have to test them one at a time.  The famous USDA "nutrient chart" is simply a big collage of averages and means exactly nothing unless they one day decide to add the brix number of the items they are testing.

Again, I have no chart that shows brix level "X" translates to "x" amount of minerals.  I guess feed labs may have some data along this line.

Sorry.  I wish what you're seeking existed.  The old Firman Bear report can't help even though it showed that mineral levels of produce could vary a thousand times depending on the soil quality they were grown in.  That's because it appears Dr. Bear didn't have a refractometer---darn.

Maybe some other government researcher will get a big grant from Ortho or DuPont that allows him to run the tests that show high brix produce (which doesn't need chemical protection) is more highly mineralized than the low-brix watery stuff Ortho/DuPont's insect & disease prevention chemicals allows to grow to maturity.

But I'm not holding my breath waiting for them to come through.   :)

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Question:  In regards to a plant holding back brix in the leaf: wouldn't protecting the root be of highest "concern" to the plant?

Answer: Indeed you are right---the root *must* be protected.  However, the soil itself keeps the root from freezing until the very dead of winter  IMHO, this is one of the very best things about high-brix agriculture---you can literally grow through the winter in many climates. By the way, some crops such as carrots, cabbage, beets, etc. are biennials and actually don't set seed until the second year.  Commercial chemical crops are watery and will freeze out much sooner than high-brix crops.  We could talk a month on this subject and barely scratch the surface (pun intended).

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Question:  I’ve heard of  playing classical music to my garden.  What sort of results should someone expect?

Answer: You may be thinking of Sonic Bloom.  At one time I was interested, but Dan Carlson (the developer), who once talked Brix (quality), now appears to only be talking about increasing quantity (bins & bushels).  He says his system electronically reproduces bird songs, which causes plants to respond.  (Note: I prefer my live birds.)  Perhaps he is now addressing the same audience that the big chemical companies address. That makes sense as the big farms of today are mostly silent places composed of dead fields.  FWIW, here is his URL...

http://www.sonicbloom.com/

Let me know if he gets back to emphasizing brix.

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Question:  You talked about your roadside purchases.  How many do you test before you buy?  What's the procedure?  Do you buy 1/2 peck and test each one or what?

Answer: My SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) is to buy *one* item and to anticipate there may be a range (say 1 to 2 brix) in a larger purchase. Much of the time the grower/seller will simply give you a sample to test and that brings me to A CARDINAL RULE.

Do Not Ever Tell Someone What They Are Selling Is POOR Quality

If you realize the sample is a bummer, simply say "I like sweet---maybe I should wait until the crop runs a bit sweeter."  That's it.  Ignore him when he says, "It will sweeten up as it ripens."

You may also want to review the "miscellaneous quality tips" from the Brix Book.  Use your browser back-button to return here.

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Question: You addressed this "fuzzy" factor, which I have come to understand to be an important aspect of the refractometer reading.  Why is it that a refractometer is not engineered in such a way as to produce an "unified" numerical reading?

 Answer: Actually, there are instruments that do as you suggest.  The digital electronic models (at $500+) appear to do this automatically.  Certainly most $5000-$8000 laboratory refractometers can be set up to deliver razor-sharp demarcation lines.  However, I far prefer the simple hundred dollar-range optical instruments, as the degree of fuzziness imparts so much more data into the equation.  It's as if the fuzzy line tells you that an item of a certain basic brix quality is at either the high or low end of that range.

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Question: As things stand at this point, we get a dual reading: one numerical and the other visual, this last one requiring being expressed as "clear", "fuzzy", "very fuzzy, sharp," etc. , all of them not satisfactory in communicating.

 Answer: In reality you get a single reading which is at the center of any fuzziness.  Perhaps the photograph will help you understand.  It is of a very nice "fuzzy" reading on a piece of fruit.  That fuzzy implies a noticeably superior taste when compared to a fruit that gives an equal---but very sharp---19 brix reading.

I apologize for the lack of clarity.  Almost all instruments are fitted with a focusing ring that brings the view into very clear focus.

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Question: Why do I notice some people describe whole brix numbers and others mention decimals?  Why the lack of accuracy?

Answer: Some people might believe we are splitting hairs here, but I think I understand your concern.  Perhaps you have a deep background in hard science and you prefer precise numbers like, say, 12.637 Brix. Although the multi-thousand dollar lab instruments mentioned above can do that, it's hardly necessary to have such precision in the field (or kitchen). 

What I'm really trying to do is alert people that they have access to point-of-sale quality checking and whole numbers are perfect for that.  For instance some folks are juicing junky homegrown 4 brix wheatgrass and think they are producing something helpful to their health.

 I've also found health-food stores selling trash wheatgrass juice at hefty prices---and they have the gall to tell people "it's good for you."  The disgusting thing is that when the customer reports it tastes really bad, the stores simply repeat, "well, it's good for you."

When people find out that really good wheatgrass should be sweet and in the 20+ brix range, they are astounded.  The savvy ones then get to work to improve things.  The not-so-savvy ones ignore the revelation and stay marginally well/sick.  Some of the dumb ones even take up heavy meat eating and publish websites that say vegetarians/vegans are idiots.

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 Question: Should we not evaluate brix numbers against our sense of taste?  Is not taste how the organism determines what is good for it and what is bad for it?

Answer: E-X-A-C-T-L-Y!  But do keep that fuzzy line in mind.  Let me relate a story.

A few years back I lucked out and found some "fuzzy" 17-19 brix "Page" oranges at Dal-Don Fruit Company in Clermont, Florida (352-394-6555).  I bought a bushel and headed on west to stay with a friend.

The next morning, my friend got ready to dash out the door to work and I handed him a 16 oz glass of 17 brix juice, which he hastily downed and said, over his shoulder, "Hey, that's really good."

That night he came in and said, "Exactly what was that you gave me this morning?  I felt like I was walking on air all day."  As he was brix literate, I told him the number and he said, "It figures..."

The next year I stopped at Dal-Don for more Pages (they ripen in December) and they were running 12-15 brix.  Go figure...  I think I've reported previously that the pickers are held back at the shed until the inspector checks any particular grove for rapidly rising brix levels in maturing fruit. The pickers are not turned loose until the brix of the oranges reaches 10.4.

It's possible that the good fruit I got was simply picked a week or more later in the season.  

I'd like to get in a good word about Florida's citrus at this point.  Unlike other areas of the country, Florida farmers who sell to the cooperatives are paid by brix times the gallons of juice in a box of fruit.  The pay is based on "pounds solids" and you might as well say "minerals."  This is a good thing as it causes the growers to consider quality. 

However, let nothing I'm saying lead you to believe that brix keeps rising if there is insufficient mineral in the soil.  It's not going to happen.

BTW, when buying commercial fruit the brix range can sometimes be rather large as individual pieces come from various trees and also various blocks (20 acre grove sections in the case of citrus). That's why I often report ranges such as "17-19."

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Question:  I tested and retested my russian kale (which, despite its lousy brix, has huge dark green fronds with almost no insect damage).  I've been squeezing my juice from the stem end because it's easier to do, and my first reading (of the stem) was 2 brix.  So then I squeezed some juice out of the frond end and got 5 brix.  Is this extreme variation common with high-brix greens?

Answer:  Variation tends to be less common in higher brix plants.  One day I intend to write Dr. Andersen and see if he will explain how he first came to understand that brix uniformity in a plant is a very good thing.

Keep monitoring that kale.  After the first frost the average leaf reading may shoot up to 12+.  Perhaps you've talked to old timers who will tell you that "frost sweetens kale."  My thought is that the plant, which up to then has been busily transferring sugar down to feed the soil microbes, suddenly decides it may be better to leave more sugar topside so as to protect against impending frost.  This, of course, is a bit at odds with Graeme Sait's "constipation" thought of brix "backing up" in the leaves when the mineral array of the soil is not so good.

No doubt someone will chime in here and condemn me for thinking a plant could be sentient, but there may not be a better answer to some of the phenomena I've observed over the years.  When you read such as David Bodanis' "The Secret Garden," you start realizing that there is a huge amount of intelligence on the loose down in the plant/insect/microbe world.  For instance, there are many savvy farmers and crop consultants who know that a plant moves brix to the roots when a storm is coming.

Of course, I don't normally recommend Bodanis until after one has viewed the Japanese video "Life in the Soil."  It takes many parts to make a whole.

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Question: Does everyone agree that brix is a great way to determine basic food quality or are there detractors?

Answer:  So far I've only found one article that "takes a swing at brix." The fellow being interviewed is notorious in some of the natural food circles for having an axe to grind.  Feel free to go there and review what they have to say about brix, but they have disabled their search function and you'll have to click down about two thirds of the way before you'll find the reference.  Perhaps Mr. Billings can get you to disbelieve what your newly brix-aware sense of taste is now telling you.  

But I'm not betting on it.   :)

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Question:  Have the brix claims about high brix allowing growing produce to be "bug-free" been validated by the universities?

Answer:  Not that I know of.  I read where a fellow at California State University tried to see if brix levels in the leaves of growing grapes affected the leafhopper count, but he finally gave an inconclusive report.  While reading it, I was startled to see he had run his bug counts in  vineyards where the petioles (leaf stems)  were between 5-7 brix.  That is inexcusable!  He was told before he started that a uniform 12 brix or better would have to be maintained to make the grapes bug-proof.

In my opinion, he instead scientifically proved that current commercial N-P-K technology simply can't produce uniform 12+ brix levels.  Perhaps he should have flown me out there to spray some fish emulsion and seaweed on those poor sick crops.  Alternatively, he could have called in one of the top-notch non-toxic California grape consultants who would have shown him how to control insects by improving grapevine nutritional status.

Another of my opinions is that it is impossible for a university system that lives on chemical company grants to publish the truth about agriculture:  namely, it is entirely, easily, and fully possible to grow abundant crops without all the various pesticides---if quality is kept at a high level.

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Question: Is your small farm "bug free"?

Answer:  Sadly, it is not.  While my soils are balanced enough to prevent sucking insects so long as I maintain 12+ leaf brix, the woods surrounding my few acres are home to countless tent caterpillars.  In late spring those caterpillars go on the move and nothing I have done has halted their yearly march into my fields.

Tent caterpillars are strange creatures.  Evidently, they are programmed to go up whenever they encounter an obstacle.  This includes houses, lumber piles, and even a pitchfork stuck in the ground.  While raspberry prickles prevent invasion, the relentless caterpillar march most definitely includes a climb into every blueberry bush.  My "solution" is to hand pick them into quart jars before they can do any real damage.

Now here is a real twist: I have discovered that the little monsters can't "live & reproduce" in my berry bushes.   Admittedly, if I leave them on the bushes they eat quite a few leaves---but they then *die*.  At one time I thought maybe I had natural Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis---a bacteria that kills certain insects) on the loose, but the same caterpillars that die on my bushes survive happily in the woods just beside them.  Go figure...

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Question: Can you prove that higher brix always means better taste?

Answer:  I can prove it in a heartbeat if you're sitting on my back porch.    :)     

Sadly, I have critics who stridently insist that brix is only "sucrose (sugar) in water."  I say sadly because those critics choose not to look through a refractometer at a drop of fruit juice and then instantly make the connection that taste and brix are in direct ratio.

I patiently explain over and over to them that brix=taste can be proven so easily at a kitchen table with some fresh orange juice and a sugar bowl, but they refuse to listen.

The procedure is simple enough.  You only need to measure the brix, taste the juice, add some sugar, measure the greatly increased "brix," and then taste the juice again.  I have never had someone undergo this and not report back that the doctored juice tasted better.  Quite the contrary, they always report that the juice is not as good even though sweeter.

Of course, like all rules this one has apparent anomalies.  For instance, you may have been raised to think that spooning sugar on a sour grapefruit makes it more palatable---and indeed it does seem to do that.  In reality, you're just trying to fool your body.  

However, if you are ever so lucky as to peer through a brixmeter and notice that your sour, but very typical grapefruit is only 7 or 8 brix, you may start to wonder why the brix charts speak to 14-16 brix grapefruit---and better.  

When the day comes that you find, say, a 13 brix grapefruit and get a preview of truly great grapefruit flavor, then you will intuitively know that sugar is a component of brix---not brix itself.  At that point no one could convince you to trade your 13 brix prize for a case of typical grapefruit with a sack of sugar thrown into the bargain.  All in all, there is nothing for me to prove to you.  You get to prove the theory to yourself.

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