Brix: What is It?

Brix is one of those topics that come up fairly frequently in sustainable agriculture.  Simply put, brix is a measure of the sugar content of a plant or other substance.

To be more specific, Brix expresses the weight of dissolved sugar as a percentage of the weight of the entire solution.  Pure water has a brix of 0%.  A solution of 5 grams of sugar to 95 grams of water would have a brix of 5%.

This measurement system was developed by and named for Austrian scientist Adolph Brix.

So how can this knowledge help us?

 

High-Brix Growing

Advocates of high-brix farming and gardening say that plants with high brix levels are vibrant and healthy—and vibrant, healthy plants resist insect pests and diseases.  They can also stand up to a light frost a little better.

High-brix fruits and vegetables generally have a sweeter, more appetizing flavor than their low-brix counterparts.  However, brix proponents claim that there are other benefits to growing and eating high-brix foods.  High-brix plants have a superior aroma and may be more digestible.  They may even have higher nutritional content (some caveats next week).

Brix can be used to positively determine if a fruit is ripe, as the sugar content of a fruit increases dramatically while ripening.

Finally, high-brix produce keeps surprisingly well.

 

More Uses for Brix

But brix is not just a useful tool for those who grow plants.  If you raise livestock, you can also benefit from monitoring brix:

  • Beekeepers use brix to monitor honey quality.
  • In dairy cattle, brix is used to evaluate the nutritional content of colostrum fed to calves.
  • To all grazing animals, brix equals palatability.  When given a choice, livestock will always choose high-brix forages over low-brix forages.

Some consumers also shop for brix these days, tapping into the nutritional benefits of high-brix foods.  Besides testing fruits and vegetables for flavor and nutrition, they can also check honey and maple syrup for dilution.

 

Next week: How do we measure Brix?

Posted by hsotr