High Brix Defines Farm-fresh, non-GMO and Organic Food

Organic Soil

Last Fall I drove an hour each way for 50 lbs. of farm-fresh, non-GMO produce — squash and carrots. I was on the trail of Winter storage vegetables with a high brix count. Farmer Timothy, along with a very extended family, run a farmer’s market business on NY Rt 11B in the Champlain Valley and are working diligently with the fertility of their soil to produce high Brix nutrient-dense foods:

Nutrient Dense Foods have very high levels of vitamins, carbohydrates, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, and trace minerals. As a result they have the greatest impact on improving health and providing nutrition against disease. Major minerals are abundantly supplied as are trace elements such as selenium, chromium, iodine, and cobalt.

What is Brix?

Minerals in real foods are naturally-chelated — bound to biologically active L-amino acids having a right-hand spin which translates to ease of assimilation. Nearly all compounded pill form minerals are bound to inert D-amino acids which have a left-hand spin and are very rarely found in nature. Buyer Beware when relying on indiscriminate supplementation.

Named after Professor A. F. W. Brix, a 19th Century German chemist, brix measures the sugar content of any sap from fruit or leaf. These sugar carbohydrates, or lack thereof, have tremendous implications for digestion and health. Sugar carbs were designed to carry a payload of minerals — particularly calcium and, also, trace minerals which function as coenzymes to the primary enzymes needed in the digestive/elimination process.

To put it another way:

  • BRIX equals the pounds of sucrose, fructose, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins, and other solids in one hundred pounds of a particular plant juice.
  • BRIX varies directly with plant QUALITY.

Measuring a drop of any edible liquid, a simple tool called a refractometer indicates a number; it is compared to the official Brix Chart developed by Dr. Carey Reams decades ago. Reams’ research and present day application show that high brix readings equate with superior nutrient content. The Weston A. Price Foundation has an interview on their website with a long-time farmer and his mission to rebuild his soil to grow high-brix crops.

Taste, itself, is predicated on the carbohydrate and mineral levels in fruits and vegetables. Wine makers have known for many generations that the best wine always comes from high Brix grapes growing on vines in high brix soil. Ask those who might remember — ask if the food they buy or even grow organically nowadays tastes and smells as good as they remember from childhood. Most all produce in every market is a depleted caricature of its succulent original design; serious degeneration of soil nutrient-density being noted by an official US Senate document from 75 years ago.

Minerals, being rocks, are heavy. This is why not to buy that gorgeous but feather-light sweet potato even if it is labeled organic — it will need to be candied with concentrated carbohydrate to mimic the taste of a high brix sweet potato. You’d have the fiber, naturally, but the serious carb calories it packs may barely be worth the actual nutrient value. In any case, lots of real butter, raw cream, and/or organic cheese will augment your carbohydrate metabolism.

High-brix plants are insect- and disease-resistant

Brix is more than just sugar, though. The higher the reading of leaf brix, the more the plants will be insect and disease resistant. Weak plants with low brix numbers emit an electromagnetic frequency that attracts predators. Insects don’t tune in to the frequency of a high brix plant — any reading over 12 is rare. Mold, mildew and plant diseases cannot take hold of healthy plants. Now, just how brilliant is this elegant natural system whereby poor quality is naturally culled, leaving the nutrient-dense produce for human consumption? So when nutrient-dense farming is, by definition, high brix, then the result is naturally organic, by default.

The late William Albrecht, eminent soil scientist, said: “Insects and disease are the symptoms of a failing crop, not the cause of it. It’s not the overpowering invader we must fear but the weakened condition of the victim”.

He also wrote:
The use of sprays (pesticides) is an act of desperation in a dying agriculture”.

Animals instinctively know what to eat, and seem to know a high brix meal when they smell one. Wild deer will not graze GMO (genetically modified) corn unless near starving. Production agriculture has discovered that it takes two times the acreage of GMO corn to get the same weight gain in beef as when using non-GMO conventional seed stock. Cattlemen know how to gauge alfalfa brix by watching which fields’ bales/stacks of hay are eaten first. GMO contamination is a crucial issue that poses great danger for the future of agriculture and health worldwide. The Organic Consumer’s Association had an action item on Americans’ right to the labeling of GMO foods in the marketplace. Another article here on We Want Organic Food discussed food origin labeling back in 2008.

There is a sweet and real substance to the robust Scarlet Nantes carrots from Martin’s Farm, and I am not alone in this delicious observation. Their work with precise analysis and soil amendments over the course of several years has raised his carrots’ brix from 5 to 8.5. He has worked with International Ag Labs, who state on their website:

We recognize, of course, that mineral composition is not the only component of nutrition to be found in plants. It is the cheapest to analyze and is the foundation of all the other nutritional components of plants such as vitamins, amino acid profile, enzymes, sterols, and essential oils among many others. Since all these components contribute to the total dissolved solids we use the brix readings as the general indicator of quality and the mineral composition as the specific indicators of quality.

Groceries

The pastured beef, poultry/eggs and dairy I might source at Martin’s will have foraged on these same high brix plants — hence they’ll be of high nutrient-density and worth every effort.

Average-plus — about 8 on a scale that goes to 18 — is the highest brix produce I was able to find last growing season, both locally and shipped in.

The farmer said as he weighed, generously, his $.35/lb. squash and his $1/lb. carrots:

"I believe in giving full measure."

Well … I believe it more important that farmers be given fair recompense and decided $.50lb and $1.15 respectively was a steal for me even with the drive. Do the math on a 2-pound squash that will nourish four easily, and you’ll agree that a quarter a serving is cheap at twice that price, especially since I know it both tastes and tests as the finest available.

Agricultural commodities have been skyrocketing, forcing double digit percentage increases in retail food prices over the past year, so do your best to search out a local producer and put-by some food for uncertain times.

Contributing Author Lynn Cameron owns the AromaVital.com website and has conducted her own research into the complementary health field since the early seventies.

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21 Comments for "Improving Food Quality through Brix Testing"

  1. Diane Vigil

    Thanks for this important article, Lynn. I’d heard decades ago that the quality of the soil in the U.S. was degrading, but then I didn’t hear much more. Now we know what the consequences are.

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  3. Lynn Cameron

    Thanks for putting this article up to make such attractive and easy reading. It is now January, and the 2 Butternut squash I have left from Timothy Martin are absolutely free of blemishes that might indicate poor quality and thus spoilage. This, of course, reflects their higher brix count, and I have no doubt that they’ll prove to be as sweet and nutritious as the day I picked them up out of the field. In fact, I’m reminded they are in my dark, cool closet and think I’ll bake one for dinner tonight.

  4. Diane Vigil

    One thing I’d be curious about is what the costs are for amending soil. Lynn has approved the posting of her response to me:

    The soil test is about $50. — it’s the recommended soil amendments and nutrient drenches and foliar sprays that seem costly. This is something one would do over the course of decades to build soil that was seriously deficient and contaminated — not a quick fix. Sooo, I spent about $150. on garden stuff that will last me for at least 2 or more seasons. The botanical/enzyme drenches and sprays immediately support crop growth and are applied every couple weeks while the rock powders etc. added to the soil Fall and Spring take several seasons.

  5. Lynn Cameron

    I want to point out that the $150. I paid included the soil testing and corrective formula to purchase for the hopeful ‘fix’.

  6. Gina Coles

    Have you checked out using raw milk to improve the brixs in
    your grasses and possibly in gardens. A dairy farmer in Nebraska sprayed his pastures with milk and got surprising results. It is well worth further study.

    The reason I am excited about it is it only takes 3 gallons per acre. This is much easier for me to accomplish then many other soil improvement programs.

    A number of people have used milk to grow large pumpkins.

    Thank you for the information. My best friend here in
    northern Idaho is a daughter of Cary Reams.
    Best Regards
    Gina

  7. Diane Vigil

    What an interesting suggestion, Gina — improving brix with raw milk. Apparently this was covered by the Associated Press. Since it’s hard to link directly to AP articles, I’ll link to the copy on the greenpasture.org website, which credits the AP.

    And what a small world — that you’re a friend of a daughter of Cary Reams.

    Thanks for the information. Have you tried it (spraying raw milk)?

  8. Lynn Cameron

    Dear Gina,

    I have a friend who seems always to order more milk than her family can use from the farmer. She regularly pours it on her garden after it goes way sour in uncontrolled culturing. She commented to me just last summer that the place she had poured it had noticeably larger and healthier produce.

    Thank you so much for sharing. I will pass this info on to the farmer whose milk I know well and adore. The 3 gallon an acre is affordable even at $5.50 gallon price and particularly if you have your own stock. I’ll also be sharing this at our next Weston A. Price meeting early March. How convenient that Timothy Martin of Martin’s Farm Market is our key speaker that day about his high-brix farming methods.

    I’m so pleased to know that descendants of Carey Reams are flourishing in this world. I studied his Biological Theory of Ionization in regards to human nutrition management 30 years ago and have utilized his principles as a nutrition counselor and gardener since. It was cutting-edge then and remains brilliant today as folks keep using and sharing his concepts to regain/maintain the health of themselves and our planet’s soil.

    Congrats on your geographical choice for your home. What gorgeous topography exists in the Idaho panhandle. I spent time some years ago on a few rivers of the Sawtooth Mountain Range.

    And, lastly, you might enjoy reading my tribute to my grandmother, Gina Forseth Marvin, here on WWOF. Is your name pronounced with a hard G as is the Scandinavian way?

    Warmly,
    Lynn

  9. Lynn Cameron

    Today 10 Servings of Vegetables are needed to Equal Just One Serving from 50 Years Ago! AND you’ll be consuming much more than ten times the chemicals & pesticides when you eat it! Garden fresh and organic is no longer enough! Highly nutritious (high-brix) foods must be assiduously sought. Sobering stats at link below.
    http://mymoablog.wordpress.com/2011/02/12/you-need-10-servings-of-vegetables-to-equal-just-one-serving-from-50-years-ago/

  10. Keith

    I am in need of a high brix food list for Mexico. In addition, I would like to know if anyone has a list of foods (no-no foods) that should be avoided in Mexico.

  11. Lynn Cameron

    Hi Keith,

    It is my understanding that brix rating(calibrated in percent of sucrose) is a standardized measurement that wouldn’t be specific to countries. I guess you’d need to find the foods listed on it that were comparable to fruit/vegetable varieties found in Mexico.

    You can order an 8×10 plasticized brix chart that was originally developed by Dr. Carey Reams from International AG Labs in MN. (www.highbrixgardens.com). It’s called a Refractive Index of Crop Juices, and I keep mine magneted to my refrigerator. The chart is very reasonably priced, but the refractometer to actually read the plant juice is something of an investment. I have mine from many years ago, and know they are available for less money now than I paid.

    Lacking a refractometer, a quick way in the market to tell high brix produce w/o tasting it is by heft – heavier produce will be higher brix. Why? Because sugar(sucrose) weighs proportionally according to how mineral-rich it is. Minerals are heavy and are ‘carried’ with sucrose – hence more weight means more minerals means more nutrient-dense.

    Also telling is the ‘sweetness’ of the taste. I must comment that nearly everyone eating in the USA today has no idea how very deliciously sweet and flavorful a piece of high-brix fruit can actually be. I have come across some pieces that tasted so, so deliciously sweet that I rushed to test it and found it did test above “Average” in the ‘Good’ range – itself a rare find, so my taste buds have not been ruined, at any rate. It was an orange, and hard to imagine how fresh orange juice with an ‘Excellent’ reading could be better. I’m still searching for any produce that reads solidly in the highest category. High brix produce keeps very well in storage and is also a good indicator – after the fact.

    A biological approach to agriculture is very demanding and requires years of dedicated commitment in this day of Agribiz and worldwide depleted soil. I quote Ag Labs:

    “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.” So, in Mexico, the produce with the higher brix would probably be the most pure to consume.

    Stay in touch, Keith, and let us know what you find down there.

    Best,
    Lynn

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  17. Lynn Cameron

    It is so gratifying to see that brix testing is becoming known and that my article is seen as relevant for an increasing number of folks. Sourcing high brix food becomes ever more difficult,in my own experience, so home gardeners aware of the goal will be rewarded with the extra time and care taken to create same. I mention also that less food becomes as nourishing and satisfying when these principles are applied.

  18. Lynn Cameron

    I have again had occasion to refer my online food buying club members to this article for more info on BRIX and am grateful for the information here on WWOF.

    I go tomorrow to buy vegies from farmer Timothy – and his bride of one year, Barbara. His price for squash in 2013 is up $.15 per pound while his BRIX count keeps going up due to his strict organic standards and biodynamic soil care.

    Happy Harvest 2013 and don’t forget that naturally culturing vegetables is a great way to not only preserve but to increase the nutrient content. This link is 13 years old – still very informative about why to salt pickle vegetables. http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/lacto-fermentation

  19. Steve

    Thanks for the article Lynn. I am part of a gardening club that loves to learn and share information and growing experiences and felt compelled to offer some follow-up information to a couple of posts here. A few years ago I was introduced to rock dusts by someone in my gardening club. They said that they tried some and couldn’t believe the differences in their garden. I decided to dig into this a little deeper (no pun intended) and began doing some research. I couldn’t believe how valuable they are to soils and, in turn, plants grown in re-mineralized soils. Most gardeners focus on nutrients (primarily N-P-K and maybe a few others) and either are not aware the value of or don’t have access to quality rock dusts – or simply skeptical.

    Millions of years ago there were around 80-100 minerals in domestic soils and today there are fewer than around 15. This has occurred due to over-farming, erosion, acid rain, and utilization without natural replenishment. As a result, most food consumed today lack the necessary minerals to meet the baseline requirements for proper health and bodily functions. I found that the only way to correct this is by amending the soil with natural minerals (rock dusts). I also learned that certain types of rock dusts do certain things based on their elemental composition and natural energy properties in some cases – and that all rock dusts are NOT the same – shale rock dust from location A may be much more elementally diverse than shale rock dust from location B. This is due to what was specifically occurring in the earth at the time each shale deposit was created. Some of the most fertile areas in the world (for example, Ecuador) have resulted from millions of years of volcanic activity and sedimentation.

    So how does this affect plants??? Rock dusts feed the microbiology in the soil which, in turn, makes the minerals and trace elements available to the plants. Just like with humans, the more nutrient-dense the forage, the healthier we become. The same principle applies to plants. Factors like brix, pest resistance, disease resistance, frost resistance, rates of production, root development and drought tolerance are all impacted by proper re-mineralization. Depending on the type of rock dust, they can also help with soil aggregation, moisture retention and other factors as well. Rock dusts can also act as a catalyst to help free up other nutrients that may be currently locked up in the soil and therefore are not available to the plants (this is sometimes why a soil test will not tell the whole story). Minerals also help with soils affected by nuclear fallout (think Fukushima and the west coast of the US). There is documentation to support all these – just dig into google like I did. I have been applying rock dusts to my garden for several seasons now an have seen the results first-hand. My favorite is a rock dust called Andesite Mineral Complex but I also use Azomite and Gaia Green Glacial Rock Dust for the reasons I mentioned above. They all have different origins and properties and therefore provide different benefits to my plants and soil. I blend all three together with my seed start mix each season as well. Keep in mind that rock dusts are NOT a replacement for proper nutrients – rather a necessary complement to them.

    I have seen an increase number of organic farmers pricing their produce based on brix levels at farmers markets. Even at the higher prices, their tables always seem to have the largest crowds and sell out before everyone else.

    As noted above, brix is a great indicator of plant health, soil health and nutrient-density in edibles. To achieve high brix levels requires not only proper nutrients but also proper re-mineralization.

    Hope this helps and happy growing!

    Here is a great article that talks about minerals and how they affect the food we eat.

    http://healthkeepersmagazine.com/article.php?id=33

    Below is another great resource with a TON of valuable information on re-mineralization.

    http://remineralize.org/

  20. Lynn Cameron

    WOW, Steve, this is such good information! Thanks for reading the WWOF postings here and for being inspired to take the time to share. I do little gardening anymore and am fortunate to source produce from a farmer who works diligently on increasing his brix count using various rock powders just as you mention here. His extended family of farmers own a feed store where they sell many organic soil amendments so they can grow ALL of the produce for their many families. And THAT’S much more of a chore than even full time gardeners even realize.

    Heartwarming it is to hear ‘brix’ being a criteria at farm market tables and not surprising that their produce sells out first. The flavor is astonishingly intense, and high brix food, once experienced, will always be sought just on taste alone. And, the food I’m eating tests just up into the ‘average-plus’ range. One can begin to understand why poetry was written in ages past to the succulence and divine nature of fruit.

    This winter – already on record as the most severe in decades & below zero as I write this – I am finding the keeping qualities of the apples, onions, potatoes and winter squash I obtained from farmer Timothy are beyond expectation, and I don’t even have a proper root cellar. His carrots are still crisp and very sweet, the garlic pungent and firm.

    Growing high brix produce, as you well know, does not come within just a season or two of attention to soil. Since so much has been depleted from once good farmland it’s crucial this issue be addressed aggressively over the course of many seasons – especially in the case of the rock powdered amendments since they take awhile to release their benefit.

    I’m grateful for the links and will be printing info to mail to farmer Tim; he has no access to a computer but enthusiastically studies print on this subject.

    I expect you’ll be starting some seeds indoors in just a few weeks. I wish you and your good gardening group a productive 2014 with increased brix levels.

    Lynn Cameron

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