We recently saw an article floating around that described the higher quality of California garlic versus imported (from China) garlic. One of the key ways to quantify that is by using the Brix test. This is a method for testing dissolved solids. This is often used by wine or beer makers to determine sugar content or for calculating specific gravity. For just a few dollars people have been purchasing refractometers (the tool used to measure Brix) to compare vegetable and fruit quality from different sources. Most fruit and vegetables have Brix values between 4 and 12.
We thought it would be interesting to do some of these comparisons with garlic. We squeezed what liquid we could from a garlic clove, but our refractometer did not register a value. With a little research we found that garlic values typically range from 30-50, which was higher than our instrument could read. We were able to take advantage of a online sale of a special refractometer that reads up to 80. We were back in business. Here are the results from testing our garlic varieties plus comparison to California and China garlic from the grocery store.
The significance of Brix is that it is thought to indicate higher quality through a higher concentration of dissolved solids, which includes not only sugar but vitamins, minerals and other healthy compounds. This does not necessarily mean the Chinese garlic is bad. It may mean that the garlic from China has been in storage longer and the quality has diminished with time. The difference in growing practices may also be responsible for the difference in Brix. What we have generally found with our home research on Brix readings is the closer the food source, the higher the Brix reading; another reason to buy locally.