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Post  kauairosina on 3/11/2014, 4:10 pm

I have ordered a refractometer to learn to take brix tests.  I have read Steve Solomon's book Gardening When it Counts and follow his interactive blog online.  Steve was an organic gardener in the North West for 30 years, fed his family almost exclusively from their gardens.  When he went to Fiji to consult some of the Fijians confided in them that their teeth were loose and could this be a result of what they ate.  Steve had the same problem and started investigating.

Steve started testing his plants, moved to Tasmania and continues to be very active internationally via Internet.  His point about our soils is that they basically lack the right minerals and soil tests are important to bring the soils up to snuff for our plants to be at their best.

Anyone have any experience with refractometers (in addition to brewing)?
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Post  gwennifer on 3/11/2014, 4:57 pm

I don't have experience but I have read a tiny bit about brix testing and have seen Solomon mentioned many times, especially here in the PNW. It's all very fascinating. Good luck with this next step in your gardening journey and keep us posted with your findings!
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Post  camprn on 3/11/2014, 5:19 pm

I use a refractometer for honey.

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Post  boffer on 5/14/2014, 7:36 pm

How is your testing progressing?
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Post  martha on 5/14/2014, 9:19 pm

I thought this would only measure the sugar content?
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Post  kauairosina on 5/14/2014, 10:48 pm

sugar content is an indicator of nutrition.  I haven't started testing.  Too much else to do just planting and harvesting.  I have a LOT to learn and you can be sure I will keep you posted.

For instance.  I harvested some carrots from my MM mix sfg the other day and did not find them to be as sweet as I believe home grown carrots should be.  I am suspicious. 

You will be the first to know whenever I get results.
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Post  martha on 5/15/2014, 2:31 pm

I'll hold you to that!
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Post  camprn on 5/15/2014, 2:48 pm

@kauairosina wrote:sugar content is an indicator of nutrition.  I haven't started testing.  Too much else to do just planting and harvesting.  I have a LOT to learn and you can be sure I will keep you posted.

For instance.  I harvested some carrots from my MM mix sfg the other day and did not find them to be as sweet as I believe home grown carrots should be.  I am suspicious. 

You will be the first to know whenever I get results.
Please provide a link to information that supports the claim that sugar indicates nutrition.

Regarding carrots, If I grow carrots and harvest them in August, they taste good. If I harvest the carrots in October after a few cool nights they taste SUPER because some of the sugar conversion. I don't know that the vegetable is actually more nutritious... or not.

http://www.thekitchn.com/food-science-vegetables-that-a-63776



It's not just about the sugar. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/26/opinion/sunday/breeding-the-nutrition-out-of-our-food.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0


Here is a sight for some OK to good nutritional information about foods. I love the nutrition label tool.
http://nutritiondata.self.com/

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Post  southern gardener on 5/15/2014, 3:29 pm

I just started researching this a while back and really had never heard of it, but it interesting for sure!  Here are a couple of links by John Kohler. He's kind of long winded, but brings up some interesting points!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXRNHGJK1bY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6YDSGSyia4
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Post  kauairosina on 5/15/2014, 5:29 pm

I will look at each of those links and get more information.  I have been wrong in the past, (like in the past fifteen minutes), but as I say, I will let you know what I find out and eager to hear from others.
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Post  camprn on 5/15/2014, 7:56 pm

@kauairosina wrote:I will look at each of those links and get more information.  I have been wrong in the past, (like in the past fifteen minutes), but as I say, I will let you know what I find out and eager to hear from others.
That would be great! Thanks!! Very Happy 

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Post  kauairosina on 5/15/2014, 9:28 pm

http://www.healthy-vegetable-gardening.com/brix-level.html

http://www.themeterman.com.au/interview.php

and a quote from this last one:\

brix readings are not 'the be all and end all', but can provide a major indicator in the form of instant monitoring of what is going on in our soil which points to what we need to do to fix it.


http://www.highbrixgardens.com/what-is-brix.html



another quote: (from above)\


Brix has become the gold standard to measure plant quality



I sure do intend to learn a lot more about this.  Good thing refractometers are pretty cheap these days.  I got mine at Amazon for under $30.


The conversation will go on.
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Post  OhioGardener on 11/5/2018, 9:24 am

@kauairosina wrote:sugar content is an indicator of nutrition.  I haven't started testing.  Too much else to do just planting and harvesting.  I have a LOT to learn and you can be sure I will keep you posted.
.
.
.
You will be the first to know whenever I get results.

I realize this is a very old post, but have you since done Brix testing? If so, what did you learn?  I have been considering getting a refractometer to test the vegetables from the garden, but haven't narrowed down the choices yet. I saw a couple older videos on Growing Your Greens on measuring vegetable qualities using Brix scores that has piqued my interest.
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Post  Scorpio Rising on 11/5/2018, 6:54 pm

I love reviving old posts!  Still valid.  I thought Brit was a sweetness measurement for tomatoes specifically.
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Post  OhioGardener on 11/5/2018, 8:21 pm

@Scorpio Rising wrote:I love reviving old posts!  Still valid.  I thought Brit was a sweetness measurement for tomatoes specifically.

Actually, it is for all fruits & vegetables, as well as being used in wine making and testing honey quality. According to the International Ag Labs, of Fairmont, MN, "Within a given species of plant, the crop with the higher refractive index will have a higher sugar content, higher mineral content, higher protein content and a greater specific gravity or density. This adds up to a sweeter tasting, more minerally nutritious food with lower nitrate and water content, lower freezing point, and better storage attributes."

There is an excellent chart of Brix ratings for all fruits & vegetables produced by the International Ag Labs: Refractive Index of Crop Juices

Back in a former life, when I had a commercial beekeeping business, we used a refractometer to test the honey, and labeled various types of honey based on the tests. That was a much more expensive refractometer than I would buy to test the Brix of my vegetables though - the one we used for testing the honey cost in excess of $300, but I can now buy a Brix tester for vegetables for less than $20.00.
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Post  sanderson on 11/6/2018, 2:47 am

I love seeing existing threads revisited. Very Happy

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Post  OhioGardener on 11/6/2018, 8:05 am

@sanderson wrote:I love seeing existing threads revisited. Very Happy

+1  Brix tests for nutrition density 3170584802
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Post  OhioGardener on 5/19/2019, 7:42 pm

This afternoon, out of total curiosity, I decided to check the Brix value of the Curly Kale and Rainbow Chard that I harvested for dinner.  I had to use a garlic press to get enough juice out of a folded piece of the leaves, but the results were worth it (I need to find an easier way to compress leaves to juice, though, since cleaning the press between tests was a pain).  The Curly Kale showed a Brix score of 20, and the Rainbow Chard showed a Brix score of 8.

The International Ag Labs Brix chart shows the readings for Kale as: Poor 8; Average 10; Good 12; and Excellent 16.  So my test at 20 was in the high excellent category. Sounds very nutritious, in addition to testing great! Very Happy 

The International Ag Labs does not list a reading for Swiss Chard, but I found an article on the Ohio State University site that shows Chard readings as an average of 4.6, and a range of 2.6 to 6.5. My Rainbow Chard showed to be a little out of the range at 8, on the high side.

I am happy with these results, and think it reflects the health of the soil the plants are grown in.  The International Ag Labs says this about the Brix test:

"Within a given species of plant, the crop with the higher refractive index will have a higher sugar content, higher mineral content, higher protein content and a greater specific gravity or density. This adds up to a sweeter tasting, more minerally nutritious food with lower nitrate and water content, lower freezing point, and better storage attributes."
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Post  sanderson on 5/22/2019, 10:46 pm

Just got a chance to read your reply. Those are great results!

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Post  Dan in Ct on 5/23/2019, 9:36 am

Ohio Gardener, I maybe way off but Brix only measures sugar and solids rather than total nutrition or even specific minerals or vitamins so is somewhat limited in scope. Similar to using DNA sequencing on soil samples to measure the microbiology. We know we have good microbes just not the total amount or in what percentages. Both are a beginning to a better understanding and a means to measure improvement and quality but still limited. I am hoping for advancement in leaps and bounds of measuring the quality of fruits and vegetables as with the soil but I am still wondering if it is safe to eat chocolate with my eggs.

Here is a link to Ohio State University and its 4 fact sheets on Understanding Brix. I had to click on Fact Sheets and then enter the Fact Sheet Number in search to see all four. The Fact Sheet Numbers are at the bottom past references in a box Fact Sheets In This Series.

 https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/HYG-1650
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Post  OhioGardener on 5/23/2019, 5:44 pm

That may be correct, Dan, but International Ag Labs and other organic soil labs disagree. So, there probably will not a consensus in my lifetime, since I only have another 15 or 20 cute years left. I had read through those OSU (our state Ag College) reports before, but didn't get too interested in them since it appeared to be a report that started with a conclusion and needed to find data to support it. Since getting a good quality refractometer, I have experimented with testing the liquid in the leaves of plants that were diseased or weak, and compared to the liquid in the leaves of nearby healthy plants. The Brix of the healthy plants was always much higher than that of the weak plants - a Brix of 3 or 4 for weak plants vs a Brix of 8 or 9 for healthy plants. But, regardless, experimenting with Brix testing to evaluate the health of my plants and vegetables will remain part of my learning process, and along with the soil lab tests will give me insight to what I might be doing right or wrong with the gardens - just a hobby for an old guy....

What I would like to see, and have never found, is a report that goes one step beyond OSU did on their report - that is, test multiple vegetables for their Brix reading, and then do an analysis of the specific mineral and protein content, along with the vegetables specific gravity. Then, graph the Brix reading with the mineral, protein, and specific gravity readings. This would either confirm or disprove this frequently quoted statement:

"Within a given species of plant, the crop with the higher refractive index will have a higher sugar content, higher mineral content, higher protein content and a greater specific gravity or density."
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Post  Turan on 5/24/2019, 3:54 pm

Hmmm, a home Brix test could be useful for me, as some one who deals with a horse with insulin resistant laminitis. The amount of sugar in plants varies over the day, due to temperature, sunlight, stressors etc.  I know I can let my horse graze out in the early morning, because the sugar content is lowest then (the plant uses it up during the night) but the amount grows rapidly during the day.  The bite of grass that she had in the morning and was ok might be so high in sugar to put her into a laminitis crisis by noon. 
I have serious doubts about the idea of sugar levels indicating nutrition.  Is there a baseline time/temp that you take these samples for that?

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Post  OhioGardener on 5/24/2019, 4:51 pm

@Turan wrote:Is there a baseline time/temp that you take these samples for that?

Interesting thoughts.... I may do some tests for the Brix level early morning vs afternoon or evening to see if there is in fact a significant difference.

The only baseline I use is that I ensure I test the same time each day. The refractometer I have has built-in Auto Temperature Compensation (ATC) to correct for temperatures up to 86ºF - I considered that an important feature when I was in the market for a refractometer.



For interesting reading, check out the book (PDF), USING A REFRACTOMETER TO TEST THE QUALITY OF FRUITS & VEGETABLES
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Post  sanderson on 5/28/2019, 7:59 pm

Turan, interesting information about your horse. It makes sense in that photosynthesis occurs during the day so sugar content would rise.

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Post  OhioGardener on 7/20/2019, 1:50 pm

We're in the middle of a heat wave, with the heat index well above 100ºF, and I thought it might be a good time to do some Brix testing.  Went out early in the morning before it started heating up, and picked a bell pepper, banana pepper, green bean, kale leaf, and jalapeno pepper to test.

Was really satisfied with the results for this time of the year, and the heat we've been having. I tried to figure out how to get a picture of the reading with the phone camera, but couldn't get it to focus. Going to have to work on that!

Below are the readings I got on my refractometer, and the International Ag Labs Brix Chart readings for Poor/Average/Good/Excellent in parentheses for reference.

Bell Pepper:        12.5 (4/6/8/12)
Banana Pepper:   12  (Not listed, but assume same as bell pepper)
Green Bean:       11.5 (4/6/8/10)
Kale:                 12.5 (Not listed, but assume same a cabbage, 6/8/10/12)
Jalapeno Pepper: 12 (Not listed, but assume same as bell pepper, 4/6/8/12)

The chart I use for reference is the International Ag Lab Brix Chart
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