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?
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?