From the Grove: The sweetness in citrus is all about the brix!
What is “brix?” If you catch a quick clip of a conversation between Matt, his dad Benny and his brother Ben this time of year, you might hear the word ‘brix’ mentioned repeatedly. That’s because we’re getting close to the most wonderful time of the year for a citrus farmer: Florida citrus picking season! We’re keeping our taste buds peeled for our organic oranges to reach their peak sweetness. We call this measurement the fruits’ brix.
Brix refers to internal sugar solids in the fruit. The higher the brix score, the sweeter the fruit! The USDA sets a minimum brix score that oranges must meet or exceed before they can be picked and juiced. If oranges don’t achieve that baseline brix, they’re rejected from being sold commercially for orange juice. Uncle Matt’s Organic historically harvests oranges with an average brix score in the 11+ range, or higher. That’s why you’ll notice our juice tends to taste sweeter than our competitors!
When it comes to actually measuring the brix, seasoned farmers like Ben and Benny can usually taste whether oranges are ready for picking or if they need a few more weeks on the tree. (They’re what we call citrus supertasters!) This time of year, Benny can be found tasting organic oranges in our groves almost daily in anticipation of setting a harvest day.
While taste tests are a good first indicator of citrus sweetness, our farmers also use a tool called a refractometer to measure brix. The refractometer measures the brix of an orange by squeezing fresh juice onto the glass of what looks like a tiny telescope. This is a more accurate reading of sugar content before we begin picking in bulk. When the refractometer tells us our fruit is at optimal sweetness, there’s another step to ensure the oranges are really sweet and ready. We’ll pick a small sample of oranges and test this sample size at a local juicing plant before we begin to harvest en masse.
Here at Uncle Matt’s Organic, we’re proud to produce high-brix organic citrus. We wait until our organic oranges taste their sweetest and the acid is the lowest before we pick to ensure a deliciously smooth, sweet taste. We also don’t add any flavor packets or peel oil to our 100% organic orange juice. Our juice is just that – pure, organic juice without anything added. That’s why you might notice a difference in taste depending on the time of year. Brix measurements change seasonally depending on when and where the citrus is picked. Our orange juice is always sweet, but you’ll get the sweetest tasting juice in the winter months!
Curious how your own backyard citrus measures up? Refractometers aren’t just for farmers! You can buy your own and sample the sugars from your homegrown citrus. If the taste isn’t sweet enough and the brix is low, give your citrus a little more time on the tree before you make fresh squeezed juice. Happy citrus season!