Many people are wondering, is it worth it to spend extra on organic fruit and vegetables? Are organic fruit and vegetables richer in vitamins and minerals?
The answer unfortunately is… it depends. Not all organic food is created equal.
But there is one easy method you can use yourself to find out if certain fruits or vegetables are high in vitamins and minerals or not. To figure it out, you will need a simple and cheap device.
This is a refractometer (Amazon).
A refractometer is an optical device that measures the index of light’s refraction in liquids. (Buy the one that uses the 0–32* Brix scale.) It can show us the difference in density of certain liquids. In an agricultural setting, it was first used by winemakers to check the amount of simple sugars in grapes, so they could know how much sugar they needed to add to a particular batch of grapes and can get the wine they wanted (dry, sweet, etc.).
What some grape farmers noticed was that the same variety of grapes grown in the same region (so they got the same amount of rainfall and sunshine) had very often different sugar levels. What was the main factor? It was (and still is!) the soil. Is it properly balanced in nutrients and rich in all the trace elements the grapevines need? If yes, it will produce sweeter grapes (and other fruits and vegetables). If not, the grapes will be less sweet.
How can I use a refractometer to measure if a fruit or vegetable is nutrient dense or not?
To measure the quality of a certain vegetable or fruit, we need about 2 or 3 drops of the plant’s juice. You need to spread it on the glass plate of the refractometer. The measurement we are taking is called a Brix reading. And the higher the reading the higher the:
- Natural sugars level,
- Organic acids,
- Mineral content,
- Vitamin content,
- Amino acids content,
- Content of phytonutrients or the plant’s secondary metabolites (plant goodies).
To put it simply, high-Brix fruits and vegetables are just better for you. They have more intense, better flavor, and they are sweeter, so you can use more of not-so-tasty but healthy greens instead of fruit.
How will I know if a certain fruit or vegetable is good quality or not?
You can compare the reading you got with this Brix Chart.
Are high-Brix fruits and vegetables free of pesticides?
Although a high Brix reading is not proof that no pesticides were being used to grow certain produce, high-quality fruits and vegetables that are grown in rich and balanced soil tend to be much more resistant to viral, fungus, and insect pest damage, so there is a high chance that the farmer who was growing your crops used none or fewer pesticides than a farmer who grows low-Brix fruits and vegetables.
Your humble author has grown high-Brix greens (spinach, lettuce, nasturtium, kale, Bok Choy, beets…) with organic mulch as ground cover in rainy England. That’s an ideal breading ground for snails and slugs. I had massive amount of them, but they were not eating my vegetables. I just had to wash off snail mucus before I was juicing them!
What you should remember when measuring fruits and vegetables?
When measuring your fruits and vegetables, you can only use fresh produce that hasn’t been dehydrated. If it’s dehydrated, it will give a falsely high reading. You can also check if your juice watered down or not. Just keep in mind that if some water was evaporated or some salt or sugar (or High Fructose Corn Syroup) was added, the Brix reading will not be a reflection of the true quality of certain produce.
About the author: My name is Wojciech Majda (don’t try to pronounce it!). I’m interested in history, ecology and growing highest quality food. If you would like to know how to grow nutrient-dense food, check my website: Designer Ecosystems.