It seems a long way off to picking vine-ripened, scrumptious, tasty tomatoes, but now is the time to prepare for that event. The taste that you are after is very much dependent on getting the soil organic matter, microbial populations, and all the minerals in the proper amounts and ratios. When you get all the numbers “right,” the result will be tomatoes that are tasty and NUTRIENT DENSE.
A nutrient density index can be measured with a refractometer. It measures the sugar/mineral content in units called “BRIX.” It’s an easy process that involves extracting a few drops of plant juice, from either the leaves or the fruit. When BRIX levels are high, the minerals are abundant, taste is superb, shelf life is extended, insect and disease problems are greatly reduced, and the plants are more winter hardy.
This issue of nutritional quality of produce is not a new concern. USDA alerted the public to the declining quality of produce in 1936. (This is not a typo). It made the news and was actually read into Senate Document 264.
If this subject is new to you, you can get additional information by checking out “high brix gardens,” or www.nutrient-dense.info. In the future, we are likely to see produce marketed on the basis of the BRIX readings. That will benefit the consumer.
The first North American Conference on Nutrient-Dense produce will take place in Wisconsin, Nov
7-8, 2010. High BRIX production goes beyond standard organics. Research has been done, and many farmers and gardeners are on board.
You cannot assume that your produce will have a high brix reading, just because it looks good. Only by doing a BRIX test (or other expensive type of nutrient analysis) will you know the nutrient density value for your produce. Here is an example with green beans of why the nutrient density issue is so critical. It was reported in June, 2007 Acres U.S.A. magazine by Jon Frank.
Rating Sample #1 Sample #2
Brix Rating 4.2 6.1
Dry Matter 8.1% 16.6%
Protein 1.75 g 3.34 g
Calcium 70mg 130 mg
Magnesium 30mg 50mg
Phosphorus 40mg 80 mg
Potassium 190mg 580mg
Copper 0.1 mg 0.4 mg
Iron 1.3 mg 2.1 mg
Zinc 0.7 mg 2.3 mg
Manganese 0.29 mg 0.35 mg
The data speak for themselves. By going from BRIX readings of 4 to 6, dry weight, protein content, and nutrient density essentially doubled. I have tested many vegetables from stores and gardens in the area and many are in the 4 (poor) range. I know from my own garden that by moving up to the 8 and 12 range (Good) the vegetables taste is noticeably improved.
What you do now will determine the taste of that summer tomato. It starts by getting a soil test, and adding appropriate amendments.