The Brix Scale Shows Us the Real Value of our Backyard Bounty

Last week my daughter took this picture of a bowl of veggies we'd just picked out in the garden for a stir fry we'd be cooking up and eating a few minutes later. What a great dinner it was, both because of the company - my daughter - and the dinner itself. Looking back and thinking about that great dinner got me thinking about all the years of bountiful gardens we'd had and all the wonderful meals we'd all had back when we lived on our little farm just outside Roberts Creek. Were my fond memories all just a subjective pre-oldtimer's disease response? Just set and setting? Or is there really an objective, scientific rational behind those fond memories.

Turns out there is a valid objective, measurable and repeatable scientific rationale at play not just our individual subjective feelings about the company or the 'taste' or even just the freshness of my present garden's produce or that from those much larger ones of gardens past. In the 1860's a German mathematician and engineer named Alolf Brix discovered and developed a method for measuring the specific gravity of liquids, the Brix Scale, that's named after him.

Brix testing is a great way to discover the quality of fruits and vegetables. Of course you'd need a refractometer [$60-$100] and a high quality garlic press to obtain the necessary drop of juice needed because lottsa veggies, like many of those in our stir fry bowl, don't generate the pure juice drops a refractometer requires without a bitta squeezing. But if you had the gear you could, for instance, go from stall to stall at a farmers market squeezing and checking each vendors produce and determine which vendor's stuff had the highest concentration of sugars and various mineral contents. The amount of sugars and minerals in vegetables corresponds directly to the quality and health of the soil they were grown in. The healthier the soil the higher the numbers.

Granted you won't see many of even the most avid foodies using Brix Testing to measure the quality of fresh produce next weekend at the local farmer's market but the method and the correlation between soil health and veggie yummy-ness is important. Important because so many of us already know the quality difference between our backyard's bounty and the supermarket's mock vegetables and because the Brix Scale gives me/us a reliable metric to prove our stir fry is both subjectively and objectively better.

Finally, the marketing of organic veggies would get a big boost if the Brix Scale were a widely used and understood measurement of the real value of produce. Cost and value are by far the largest determinants in every market place. Without the Brix Scale, or a garden of your own to make your own quality comparisons, a carrot is a carrot, all that matters is cost. Why spend $2 on a lb. when you can buy a lb. for $1? But with a Brix Scale or garden comparison it's a lot easier to see how quality actually determines the value of that carrot not just price. So if that $2 carrot has 3 times as many sugars and minerals as the $1 carrot lottsa things change.

All of a sudden those mock GMO veggies grown with chemical fertilizers that kill the microbial content of the soil become a bad deal at any price and the real heirloom veggies grown in living soil and fed by the microbes, the compost and the manure become the only deal worth doing. So looking back now i realize that dinner the other night, and all those of bygone days, were wonderful both because of the company and the real quality of their contents.