As you plan this year's growing strategy, testing and improving brix may be something you want to try. You can measure the brix in your vegetables for an indication of the flavor and sweetness.
Brix is not new. It was Professor A.F.W. Brix, a German chemist who discovered in 1870 that the sweetness of grape juice could be measured before the juice was made into wine. The measurement process was then named after him.
Brix is measured with a refractometer, which is a handheld instrument. It is an optical device that takes advantage of the fact that light passing through a liquid bends, or refracts. More dense liquids refract more. With the refractometer, one places a drop of juice on the prism and flattens it with an attached cover plate. The device then displays the measurement.
The average strawberry has a Brix of 10 whereas a strawberry variety known for its flavor (like Tri Star) might be 16. Vegetables actually can have higher Brix than fruits. Sweet corn can go as high as 24, carrots as high as 18.
Brix improves when organic matter is added to soil and mulches are applied. When you have a mulch on the ground, soil holds moisture better and plants more easily take up soil’s nutrients.
Foliar feeding can also increase Brix. Plants can accept the nutrients in this type of fertilizing more easily. Gardeners who have tested Brix before and after foliar feeding find that the Brix levels increase.
Many growers believe that plants with a Brix above 12 become resistant to pests. They also contend that they withstand lower temperatures and can survive frosts.