Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Taste of Food

I have been pondering taste (the taste of foods) while I have been sitting in the garden on my overturned bucket pulling weeds. My mind had been wandering to images of pulling and eating sugar snaps right off the vine (soon!) on my early morning garden walks, and visions of having munched just snapped-off asparagus tips several weeks ago. What is it about eating something just picked that makes it taste soooo good?

Fruits and vegetables contain aromatic compounds (scents) which we can smell, and scents are volatile... they evaporate. Our sense of taste is directly related to our sense of smell; things with little or no scent are not very appealing. How often have you sniffed the stem end of a cantaloupe at the store, and put it back because it had no smell?

For many households, any fruits and vegetables almost all come from the grocery store, and you can be sure they were grown and picked many days, and many miles ago, lessening the chance of retaining any appealing scents by the time you get them. Does that really entice you to nibble on the peas even before you get them home?

Fresh-picked anything from the garden has all its volatile aromatic compounds still permeating the air during the short journey from the plant directly to your mouth. Yum!

Taste is also directly related to nutrient density; the higher the nutritional content, the better the taste. Nutritional density may be measured with a refractometer, using a scale known as a Brix scale. The better the garden soil, the higher the Brix; the higher the Brix, the better the taste. By better garden soil, I mean soil that supplies all the nutrients the plants need, much more than just NPK. "Feed the soil, and it will feed us." To learn more about Brix, read my article here.


  1. I'm looking foward to the first fresh pepper or tomato picked from our garden. There is nothing like that sweet burst of a fresh cherry tomato in your mouth.

    If I'd planted asparagus all the years I thought about planting some, we'd be enjoying it. I always forget, and always wish I had some come spring!

  2. I read your Brix article and really liked it. I would love to know more. Where can I get charts, guides, a refractometer, etc.

  3. You can download a Brix chart here:

  4. To find a hand-held refractometer, please search the internet as I don't know a supplier. Get one that has a scale of 0-32ºBx, a standard Brix scale like they use for grapes in wine-making.

    I bought mine on eBay (new) for around $50 about 3 years ago. You don't really need one with automatic temperature control, nor a light to have a functional unit for the garden. Here's a link to one today listed on eBay (I don't know how good it might be) for $40:


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