Last Updated:15 June 1999
Created on Thu, 10 Dec 1998

Greetings list readers,

All of this talk about quality assurance through Brix levels, organic produce, and the wonders of Hawaiian fruit has brought me to introduce myself to the group. I must admit to keeping my finger on your collective pulse as time permits. These topics are too interesting to pass up! Besides the gardens are now resting.

I am Paul a vegetarian for 25 years and a vegan for the past ten. My interests include veganic gardening using cover crops, mulching, and paramagnetic rock as primary soil amendments. I have been growing a substantial amount of my own food most every year for some 20 seasons. That which Rex has described concerning Brix measuring is very accurate in my experience.

This year I grew 16 brix muskmelon and 14 brix watermelon here in Northern Indiana. The melon seed stock was hybrid and not open pollinated. The flavor of these is rivaled only by the mangoes, papayas, and litchi's of Hawaii. I also grew 12 brix orange cherry tomatoes but other open pollinated tomato varieties tested lower ~ 9 brix grown on the same soil. I believe Brix levels are variety dependent. (Different varieties grown on the same soil will have very different readings). These readings can be upgraded with better growing conditions and soil health.

Still the 9 brix open pollinated tomatoes were delicious with outstanding disease free production long past other blighted tomatoes in the area and right up to the first frost.

One experiment I did this year was to provide seedling tomatoes to about a dozen gardeners later checking the taste, brix readings, and general vigor. To summarize these results it is true that there are many factors collectively responsible for high brix levels.

Soil fertility is influenced by local climactic events as well as water supply, nutrient availability, care, growing technique, and I believe intention of the grower(s). The microbial life in the soil is perhaps the single most overlooked and important factor being influenced by all of the above.

Identical seedlings started in the same greenhouse yielded surprisingly different results. Brix levels from 5 to 12 were found from the same plants in different gardens. The healthiest plants grew over seven feet tall and had so many little orange sugar tomatoes that it became a burden to keep them all picked. These plants continuously produced at least a pint, maybe two a day, for at least 8 weeks.

By contrast in other gardens the scrawny sibling plants were only 2 feet tall had sour tasting fruits, poor production, and poor blight resistance. There were intermediate producers as well. I think it is possible to learn some things about a person by the fruit they are producing.

Perhaps... where they are in relation to the plants they tend.

These 16 brix muskmelon and 12 brix tomatoes were grown on clay soil that was reclaimed from a corn / soybean field three seasons ago. Definitely not ideal melon ground but this is what we were given. The Amish farmer who farms the adjacent land told us bleakly that the ground would never produce good melons.

I thanked him for his advice and proceeded to demonstrate otherwise. Of course we gave him a few melons too! For three years we have grown excellent melons, tomatoes, peas, beans. broccoli, lettuce, cabbage etc. on what is considered very marginal soil.

If I had to choose between organic produce with lower Brix and commercial produce with higher my decision is made by considering the types of pesticides commonly used, the frequency of spraying in general practice, and the origin of the produce; do I know the grower? Sometimes these things are not all knowable. Commercial produce may be organic and not labeled as such because some places are so backward that organic conjures up a negative in the mind of the average customer.

For instance here in Indiana a local chain of 14 stores is supplied with green, red, and yellow peppers, corn, cucumbers, and seedless watermelons by a friend of mine who has always been organic (though uncertified). Each produce manager makes his own signs and only a few say organic. The ones with the more upper scale clientele. My guess is higher brix commercial produce is likely closer to organic than not.

I have learned the benefits of eating raw and consider it essential to consume lots of locally grown fruits and vegetables during the growing season. IMO our diet ought to be governed largely by what is local, organic or better yet veganic and in season. When things are no longer in season I am in favor of importing the best I can get and thankful for the privilege. I am certain that in inclement climates that these nutrient stores can help carry one through the winter months. Know the persons who grow your food, choose wisely and rewards will be forthcoming on many levels.

Two winters ago while traveling on the big island (Hawaii) I did partake of 24 brix oranges. South of Pahoa at Kapaahu where the lava literally took the road was a fruit stand with some truly delightful Hawaiian people living there in attendance. These oranges were mostly green in color (a variety characteristic) so I almost passed them up not knowing better. A lovely native Hawaiian woman suggested that I try the oranges saying they were the sweetest anywhere.

She was absolutely right and I bought all she had. Those oranges redefined oranges. They took the orange experience to an entirely different level. I will never forger that woman's gracious spirit nor her bananas, oranges, and jicamas. They were exactly what I needed. Native Hawaiians have presence, are gracious, sweet, and honest. The aloha spirit is their life in my experience.

Switching topics to weight lifting which occasionally interests rawsters:

As an avid weight trainer for many years I typically attempt to work out three times a week.

One of my workout partners has seen the vegan light and the other two are almost vegan. All have experience major health improvements to accompany needed weight loss. Personally when I cease lifting weights I soon lose weight as I have done for three consecutive winters while touring the Hawaiian islands. Weight loss is approximately 15 lb. over 8-12 weeks with a corresponding 30 % loss in strength. I understand this as a constitutional issue and quickly regain the loss after resuming training. In my circumstance the weight loss is not desirable for many reasons.

Unlike some I am certain that raw nuts particularly macadamia, hickory, and wild black walnut are excellent foods eaten in season (late fall and winter) particularly for thinner constitutions. When individuals have difficulty digesting nuts it tells much regarding their digestive health assuming they are eaten judiciously, raw, in season, and with constitutionally appropriate combinations.

If a person is unable to digest nuts it suggests an imbalance in the microbes colonizing your GI tract or possibly a true food allergy though in my experience these are less common. Digestive imbalance over time is a fine way to predict chronic degenerative dis-ease.

If anyone has further comments or island experiences especially on Maui, Kauai, or Molokai

I would be most interested in hearing. It is by far easiest to procure raw food on Kauai.

Towards Better Health,

Paul ---

If you would like to write to Paul, you may send e-mail

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