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ADVANCED USE (Blurry Line)
Some produce resists efforts to get a drop of juice for testing:
- A less-than-sharp demarcation line (blurry/fuzzy/diffused) on the screen is an indication of varied atom distribution¾ i.e., an excellent mixture of minerals. For instance, many veteran refractometer users grow forages for animals and also have access to standard lab tests (so as to make possible direct comparisons of brix vis-à-vis other lab tests). They are adamant in insisting a sharp demarcation is an indication of increased simple sugar and therefore lesser high-quality protein (and other life-enhancing substances) at any given brix level.
Conversely, they suggest a blurry/fuzzy line predicts more, and better quality, proteins (*). Interestingly, the fuzzy line concept appears to be supported by the ability of astronomers to use refracted light to determine the elemental makeup of distant stars. Starlight, properly refracted, is spread out so that the lines left by various elements can be identified. It is suggested that you think of your readings as, say, 12S (sharp) or perhaps 14D (diffuse). In almost all cases, blurry tastes better.
- You will quickly, and easily, learn to judge the mid-point of any blurring. Your correct reading lies there.
- Blue intensity matters on those models that have a blue background field. When different items reveal the same brix but one has a less intense blue, it will taste sweeter and be higher in calcium, which neutralizes acids. However, the blue background can be overcast by the deep green chlorophyll color of some leafy plants. Do not be discouraged if your field of view appears to "greenout." Simply rotate your body away from the light source and watch for the demarcation as the light intensity diminishes.
- Although your mouth readily tells the difference, the refractometer cannot easily distinguish starch from sugar. There is an additional chart in the book to convert starchy food readings to sugar equivalents.
- Consider that it may be very high brix and that the juice is really thick.
- Try cutting a very thin slice (1/16" to lay on the prism---it really works!), or
- Crush a leaf and lay that on the prism, or
- Grind the food in a processor and squeeze the chopped result.
- Be wary of dehydrated produce.
Some foods are made to order for testing:
- You can plunge the prism end of many refractometers into citrus fruits. Then pull the instrument back and flip the plate down to get the reading. (The plunge method works well on other very ripe fruits and any tomatoes).
(*) Protein quality is a subject of much interest to farmers. Should you ever visit a farm show devoted to biological growing, as opposed to chemical growing, you are almost sure to find a booth where they have common ear corn sealed in air-tight jars. As could be expected, corn grown with their products will be as good as the day it was picked. On the other hand, ears of corn identified as grown with ordinary N-P-K technology will be seriously decomposed. This "oddity," which is far more common than you may suspect, is generally attributed to "funny" protein. When pressed, the speaker will describe malformed proteins and how they appear when too much nitrogen in the form of N-P-K is applied to the growing crop. Much money is spent on "research" to discover ways of using yet more chemical additives to keep poor quality food from decomposing right on supermarket shelves. One must wonder if any of those funds found their way to explore this phenomenon whether we might learn much about good agriculture and good food.