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benefits of high brix for health, shelf-life and...  RSS feed

 
                                    
Posts: 44
Location: Lynnwood, Washington
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High Brix is a measure of nutrient density in food.  As I understand it so far.  One claim that is made is that high BRIX foods don't rot, they dehydrate.  I have seen this occur but I don't know if it was due to high BRIX that those cherry tomatoes I bought at Trader Joes didn't rot but dehydrated.  It fascinated me and now I read this about high BRIX.  So I wonder-couldn't this be a major help in storing food.  I imagine how simplified food preservation could be if excess dehydrated nicely for us.  I know I'm over simplifying but has anyone any exerience of this?  Or of using a BRIX measuring tool?
 
                          
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I'm really curious about this.  Someone just yesterday recommended to me that I purchase a high BRIX type foliar spray (I think that was the idea) as a defense against tomato blight.  I've not paid much attention to the whole brix thing aside from being aware it was sort of about maximizing nutrients in the harvested (edible) parts of the plant (right?)

but this no rotting thing bothers me.  I have been raised to understand that if it does not rot, it is somehow not natural -- something is keeping the substance out of the normal food chain.  Used to be the test for preservatives, in the old Adelle Davis school of thought about nutrition, if something doesn't rot, it isn't food.

Also recently there've been internet stories around about someone bought a MacDonalds Happy Meal and left it sit on a shelf for a year and it did not change at all.

So that's my association with food that does not rot, LOL!  And yet the high brix stuff, well, what goes into the soil seems real good, on first glance.

Clearly I don't know anything, just sharing my own questions here.
 
                        
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Now I have to go look all of this up.  I thought that Brix had to do with the level (%) of sweetness, which I thought meant natural sugars. Certainly some of the seed catalogues  suggest  that's what it means for such things as carrots and strawberries. 

It's a puzzle to see  how this translates into a foliar spray!
 
                    
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every time I explore a new ag system, I find new words. Brix cam to me just yesterday when i was at Alsea vineyards (http://www.teutonicwines.com/vineyard.html) looking at the vintners annual schedules. I asked what the brix is.

Barney described it as " measuring the sugar content of the wine." Whenever I come across a new word in ag i wiki it and then search permies.com to see what other conversations are being had about that topic. so here I am. heres wiki's words on brix: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brix

salud!
 
                          
Posts: 25
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Okay, for those curious and interested, here is the website for the products my friend was recommending to me.  I have not yet made a decision on this as I am not sure I want to spend money here, but notice that in the very top of the home page it refers to "not rotting" as a characteristic of high Brix.

I am puzzled!  I also thought originally it had to do with sugar content, and it makes sense that a good soil base and a plant with complete nourishment throughout its life cycle would produce structures within the plant which would hold the maximum sugars.  This just makes complete sense to me as a lifelong amateur student of living systems.  When that which goes into building it is incomplete or flawed, the "final" product is also, is weak or distorted in some way.  Reference the discussion elsewhere about natural building and how it ages and the recent comments that, in terms of how a structure ages, it does not matter so much the building method per se, but the quality of materials and skill of construction applied, examples given.

Anyway, the website I mentioned is here:
http://www.tandjenterprises.com/
 
Leila Rich
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Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Here in New Zealand, there are several respected permaculturists who swear by high brix readings as an indicator of food's 'nutrient density'.
High sugars  (and we're not talking just 'sweet', apparently go in tandem with high vitamin, mineral, etc content.
I don't have a refractometer (the simple, yet expensive tool for measuring brix), but they're really fun to play with, and would be an ideal thing for a group to share.
Conscientious gardening and healthy-looking produce is not enough, according to these people. Low carbon and calcium in the soil are major reasons for low-nutrient density, so I suppose a soil test is the best way to find out.
Warning: I'm no scientist and I'm just repeating what I've read...
 
                          
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That's real interesting, and sort of confirms my notions about the meaning of "brix" but I am still confused about the "not rotting" angle.  Perhaps it only means it does not start to rot as soon?

anyone got a clue on this piece?
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Just did some reading: I was surprised at how little info is out there!
These claims make at least superficial sense...
Apparently fungi and bacteria can't survive in environments over 7 brix (the average  chemically grown produce being between 3 and 5, while 'high brix' is over 12).
So the not rotting thing is due to natural, desirable,  processes: I'd definitely like to store apples and winter squash for longer.
 
                                    
Posts: 44
Location: Lynnwood, Washington
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Yes it is the "not rotting' that so fascinates me.  The picture at the link you provided Kyla, shows a tomato some months after harvest having sprouted seeds inside rather than rotting.  I think we are all trying to figure out what we need to add to our soils to get this food that doesn't rot.  The tomatoes I had that dehydrated were still good in that form.  I used them when they were shriveled and they were very sweet. 
 
tel jetson
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Posts: 3381
Location: woodland, washington
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another advantage to high Brix (or whatever analogous measure is used), and maybe the most important to me, is the resistance to disease and herbivorous insects that comes along with it.

alcohol producers and fruit growers are the most common consumers of Brix meters (a refractometer calibrated to read degrees Brix) that I know of, but they're also very useful for checking and maximizing the health of any green plant tissue.  squeeze some juice out of a leaf.  or a green stem.

and it isn't always the case, but the amount of available phosphorus in dirt is frequently the key to high Brix, at least in depleted garden or agricultural dirt.  this isn't an excuse to go dumping soluble phosphorus in your garden, though.  excess phosphorus has as many or more detrimental consequences as deficiency.  and then there's the ground and surface water pollution.
 
                                    
Posts: 44
Location: Lynnwood, Washington
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By keeping my eye on my overall goal, which is to be food independent, I jump right to "how do I have food through the winter?"  And wouldn't ya know, the very factor that supplies one thing also satisfies the other-doing the gardening to get the food to save through the winter.  I am a true believer that pest problems are the consequence of weak plants.  Having high Bx soil would make every bit of growing better, probably more drought tolerance as well.
 
Daniel Zimmermann
Posts: 122
Location: Sacramento
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I used to be a mystery shopper, and I measured brix to determine the sugar content of soft drinks, thus telling me if a restaurant was using the right % of syrup in the mix.
 
              
Posts: 52
Location: Australia
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I use Brix all the time in brewing beers and wines, testing fruit sugars and honey sugars, etc.

High amounts of sugar and/or high amounts of salt have been used to preserve food against rotting for time immemorial. High concentrations of either forces water out of cell membranes which means death for single cell bugs like bacteria. Hence food stored in honey was used quite often by different societies.

What I am interested in is foods with insect attack as their is a whole class of chemical compounds that destroy cancer cells that are formed in plants during their defense mechanism response to attack. Modern Ag generated food swimming in pesticides means foods missing all these cancer fighting compounds making up all of our diets.
 
                      
Posts: 56
Location: MONTANA, Bozeman area; ZONE 4
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I find BRIX to be a great key to developing highly nutritious food.

There is a Brix Yahoo group

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/BrixTalk/

This is where some serious heavy-weights in this field often hangout and share.  A great resource.
 
John Polk
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Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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For anybody using a "brix meter", here is a guideline chart of where your foods stand:

http://www.highbrixgardens.com/pdf/brix-chart.pdf
 
Seren Manda
Posts: 62
Location: Northern Cali, USA -zone 9-
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High brix? Think grapes and raisins. I have some sun gold cherry tomatoes I plan on making into sun dried tomatoes just because of the dehydration properties. In winemaking there's a method called "Noble Rot", in which the grapes are left on the vine long after harvest. Water evaporates out of the grapes, leaving pretty much sugar in it's place. The wines made in this technique are pretty sweet.
 
                                  
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Sugar is acidic, and acidic things are resistant to rot (microbes and fungi that cause rotting aren't too keen on acidic environments).  I'm assuming that the high sugar content of the tomato is what caused it to dry out rather than rot. 

Livestock managers using intensive rotational grazing sometimes test the brix of their grasses.  Sugar content in grass varies according to the time of day.  Plants create sugar by photosynthesis, so the highest concentration of sugar in grass is in the mid to late afternoon, after the plants have been making energy all day and before they send it down to the roots in the evening.  I imagine most plants have similar schedules of sugar making/storing.

Perhaps you picked the tomato at an especially high brix time of day?  In this case, I don't think that the inability to rot is any indication of an unhealthy tomato. 
 
Erica Wisner
gardener
Posts: 1181
Location: Okanogan Highlands, Washington
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I've also seen brix used in winemaking as a measurement of the sugar content of the grape juice or fermenting wine.  The standard measurer is a hygrometer, which floats higher in the (denser) more sugary juice.

The idea that high-sugar or high-acid foods can dry out without spoiling seems straight-forward to me, if you leave out the unnecessary introduction of technical terms.
I've accidentally dried plenty of key limes, and the occasional orange, without mold.  Traditional dried fruits like raisins and currants are sweet treats that don't take a lot of extra preservation.

There are also high-sugar foods like Oregon strawberries that rot more quickly than their tart cousins.  Citric acid or pressure-canning is needed to preserve low-acid foods, if you aren't adding extra sugar. 
I think nature's secret to well-preserved foods is a balance of sugar content, other nutritional and surface factors, and drying conditions with good ventilation to discourage molds.

I am a bit put off by the 'whiz-bangery' of the pseudo-scientific justifications for using brix to measure food and soil, though.  (I went to the site referenced above since the brix chart didn't load for me.)  I get tired of the new-age borrowing of 'quantum' for this and 'negative ions' for that.  And rejoicing in your founder's Einstein-like genuis is a bit much! 
I've seen too many gadgets and methods that used 'pseudo-scientific' terms to snowball credulous people into shelling out money, yet failed very basic practical tests. 
(The same mumbo-jumbo is also used to 'enhance' the reputation of marvelous and ill-understood, yet effective, techniques like biodynamics.  The pseudo-scientific justifications needlessly damage that same reputation among actual scientists.)

The descriptions seem needlessly complicated, and only useful if advising physicists on how to become decent garrdeners.  Or better yet, convincing decent gardeners that they should become physicists in order to achieve miracles.  You might as well take up faith healing.  Literally.

Wouldn't it be easier to advise gardeners and growers on good, practical methods that would increase the desired qualities without the mumbo-jumbo?

Taste buds and noses are superb chemical analysis tools.  Your average kindergartener can tell a sweet, flavorful tomato from a bland or off-flavor one.  It's not that hard to do your own tests to determine which ones keep longer on the kitchen shelf.

If I'm missing an important insight that these new terms and concepts offer, for actually improving garden practice, would someone with more garden experience please clarify things on a practical level for me?

If you go in for this stuff, how does it change what you actually do, and how does it affect your results?
 
                      
Posts: 56
Location: MONTANA, Bozeman area; ZONE 4
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"Wouldn't it be easier to advise gardeners and growers on good, practical methods that would increase the desired qualities without the mumbo-jumbo?"

If you join the BrixTalk yahoo group you will find the details you are seeking. Perhaps they would or would not welcome a challenge from one who claims to speak for The Scientist Collective Mind and Accumulated Data Configuration.

Basically, the way they use Brix helps to evaluate the health of the plant. They assert that high Brix plants won't be attacked by bugs, which bugs, they hold, are Mother Nature's clean up crew to review low quality food.

They also say that high Brix food is a heavenly delight to imbibe.

 
Tell me how it all turns out. Here is a tiny ad:
The Earth Sheltered Solar Greenhouse Book by Mike Oehler - digital download
https://permies.com/wiki/23444/digital-market/digital-market/Earth-Sheltered-Solar-Greenhouse-Book
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