My Italian grandmother used to be very good at spotting tasty, fragrant and nutritious produce at the market. She used to tell me about the fragrance of ripe melons and good tomatoes. She used to buy produce from the local farmers’ market or, more often than not, our daily fare would come from her veggie garden.
The problem nowadays is that we have lost our benchmarks. We just don’t know what a “good” piece of fruit is supposed to smell or taste like. Whether at the supermarket or at city markets – that are everything but farmer markets – fruit and veggies don’t smell anything at all. They are beautiful indeed but, like the roses that come from South America, they don’t smell… and they don’t taste much either. I just can’t see how Eve could have lured Adam into doing anything naughty at all if she had given him a 21st century apple.
Thankfully there is a small, affordable, reliable and pocket-sized instrument that we can use to check the nutritional value of what we buy or grow: a refractometer. Refractometers measure Total Soluble Solid (TSS) content in liquids. For fruit and vegetable juice, what is measured is sucrose equivalent density in the juice, or Degree Brix. One degree Brix is 1 gram of sucrose in 100 grams of juice.
The higher the Brix value of piece of fruit or vegetable the more likely it is to contain a high level of minerals, vitamins and proteins. This is because, sugar content as well as sugar complexity, mineral content, vitamins and complex protein levels all increase dramatically in the latest stages of fruit ripeness. The density in all these nutrients also increases in sync in fruit and vegetables when these are grown on a good living soil with minimum amounts of added fertilisers.
A refractometer is really easy to use and it empowers us to see how good the produce we buy really is. The attached video demonstrates how to use one.