Do vitamins have a taste?
I’ve always wondered about vitamins. I’ve always wondered whether vitamins taste like anything. For instance, does vitamin A have a distinctive taste such that if I encountered that taste, I would know that that food or drink contained vitamin A?
Lol. I don’t know. However, I do know that I like the taste of vitamin C. At school, when I was growing up, it seemed that every mention of this vitamin was associated with citrus fruits. You know lemon and lime. Well here in the islands, we have kalamansi.
Ca-la-man-si is universally loved. And since you’re going to love it too, you want to pronounce it correctly. You don’t say ka-la-man-sea. Your Filipina wife will smile politely because she thinks it sounds cute but believe me, she’s just being polite. Here’s how you say this word (and similar ones) correctly. Keep in mind that the language has only short vowel sounds.
Refresh yourself with my two rules of thumb.
The vowel i has a short vowel sound. The last syllable is pronounced si instead of sea. So it’s ka-la-man-si and not ka-la-man-sea.
Kalamansi–a favorite and a go-to drink
It can also be spelled with a c. The Pilipino language has a c sound but since it’s always pronounced as a hard-c the alphabet uses the letter k to denote it.
Kalamansi is a go-to drink. When your throat is raspy or you want to hasten your recovery time, you go to drink it.
Food as medicine. Have you ever run across that notion? The food you eat is specially selected to fortify your health. Food selection is done in a purposeful way.
The mad scientist at Aloha House
When I was a kid, my Aunt Celia called me a mad scientist. Well, Keith is another one. Keith Mikkelson is also an American cheesehead. That’s what Wisconsin natives are called (because of their extensive dairy industry).
Keith’s ancestors were farmers. His farming genes were denied to Wisconsin but to the Philippine’s great benefit, they were unleashed in Palawan.
Keith is a former missionary. He and his wife, Narcy, started Aloha Farms 13 years ago. He started a farm and went about developing it like a mad scientist. I think Keith will be the first to deny that he was born with a green thumb. He made his share of mistakes. Any childhood prowess from Wisconsin would have been challenged anyway since he was farming in the tropics. No, what makes his farm remarkable is how he successful it is because he approached it in a methodical and scientific way. If there was something to be learned about how productive and profitable a farm can be, Keith–I am convinced–would know.
For three days, four and then six of us listened and learned. Above, he’s pointing to the separated folds of corrugated cardboard. What do they do? They hold the eggs that hatch into the guys below.
And what are these repulsive creatures good for? Protein. To be precise, they become protein snacks for the chickens.
Proteins, Nitrogen, Vitamin D. I became intimate with those words–more so than I ever was. And then there was the word sustainable. What did it mean? In the context of Aloha Farms, sustainable meant “capable of being continued with minimal long-term effect on the environment.”
His farm today is as much into livestock as it is into crops. It was clear that the same scientific approach to growing vegetables and fruits (apply nitrogen) was applied to raising animals (feed them protein).
It was also clear that Keith didn’t branch out into animals on a whim. Animals are needed to complete the loop of sustainable farming. Do you remember the respiratory cycle of plants? They consume carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. That’s a good thing because animals do the opposite: they inhale oxygen and exhale CO2.
That’s an obvious example of sustainability I would say.
It’s obvious to you and me but if your educational attainment was high school graduate (which the majority of my Palawan neighbors seems to be), it’s probably not even known.
Three intensive days
The certificate says so itself: 3-day Intensive Training on Sustainable Agriculture. Believe me: it was intense. Every night was a welcome break from information overload.
Keith distilled his knowledge and experience into ten fundamentals and his training revolves around them.
One thing I liked was how he immediately established his credibility as a farmer whose practices were worthy of emulating. It was the first thing he did on the morning of the first day.
He had us mix our own bottle of “miracle juice” and then–because you really judge a farmer’s skill by the quality of his products–he had us taste his dragon fruit shake, our snack drink on day-1, and then he talked about brix.
Brix? I was surprised to hear a word that I had never encountered before. I am after all a scientist.
But food scientist I’m not. As for high school chemistry, well that was a few years ago. But I can sense that my ignorant state is all about to change.
Before “proof” there was “brix”
Anyone who drinks alcohol should be familiar with proof. The alcohol content of drinking alcohol–from spirits like vodka to wines like chardonnay–is typically expressed in proof. Beers, on the other hand, like this can of San Mig Light (from one of my earlier posts) is measured by the percentage of alcohol in the volume of the serving.
One hundred proof is 50% alcohol. Two hundred proof is pure alcohol. How odd. Why didn’t they just make 100 proof be 100% alcohol? If it’s that odd, you know there’s got to be a story behind it. And there is. The unit, proof, has a quaint origin.
The term originated in the 18th century, when payments to British sailors included rations of rum. To ensure that the rum had not been watered down, it was “proved” by dousing gunpowder in it, then tested to see if the gunpowder would ignite. If it did not, then the rum contained too much water and was considered to be “under proof.” It was found that gunpowder would not burn in rum that contained less than 57.15% alcohol by volume (abv). Therefore, rum that contained this percentage of alcohol was defined to have “100 degrees proof.”
The use of “proof” as a measure of alcohol content is now mostly historical. Today, liquor is sold with labels that state its alcohol content as its percentage of alcohol by volume (abv). United States law requires that liquor labels must state the percentage of alcohol by volume. The proof number may also be placed on the label, provided that it is close to the abv number.
Brix is a unit of measurement that’s like centigrade is to temperature. Brix is traditionally used in the wine, sugar, fruit juice, honey, and brewing industries. Brix (expressed notationally as °Bx and pronounced “bricks“) represents the same thing as degree Plato (°P) used by the brewing industry.
By coincidence, I blogged about dragon fruit recently.
Keith whipped out a refractometer to measure the brix of our dragon fruit shake. According to Keith, the majority of commercially-produced fruits, such as the kind you find at the grocery store or fresh market, will register between 5 and 13 brix. Our shake, although not pure dragon fruit, was at 18.
Paraphrased from the blog “Making homemade wine and beer:”
More common in wine-making is the Brix scale. So, what is the Brix scale and why should you know it? Basically, it measures the sugar content of your juice and knowing that you can get an idea of how much alcohol your wine will produce.
A brix scale is a system of measurement, given in degrees, of the amount of sugar present in grape juice. Similar systems are used in different countries … that all provide sugar content measurements that can be used to approximate the final alcohol content of wine being produced.
Balling is the name of a density scale for measuring sugar content in water-base solutions. Since grape juice is primarily sugar and water, the balling scale was used for a quick and easy “sugar analysis” of juice. The Balling scale contained a slight inaccuracy however, and it was corrected by Dr Brix. Today the Brix scale is in actual use, but the terms Balling and Brix are often used interchangeably.
The Balling (Brix) scale is simplicity itself. Each degree is equivalent to 1 percent of sugar in the juice. For example, grape juice that measures 15.5 degrees on the Balling or Brix scale contains 15.5% sugar.
Let me summarize. Drinking alcohol (ethanol) comes from sugar. The amount of sugar (measured in brix) in the vat determines the maximum amount of alcohol (measured in proof) that the concoction will eventually have. That’s why brix will determine the beverage’s proof.
Or, take two casks of fermenting grape juice. The cask with a higher brix has the potential to become a stronger wine than the other cask. The vintner (the winemaker) may elect to ferment all the sugar and produce a stronger wine or just some of the sugar and produce a sweeter wine.
But did it taste good?
Yes it did. And to paraphrase Keith, more to the point is the fact that his fruit was nutrient-dense compared to a commercial variety. Sugars carry the nutrients and give the fruit its taste. A tastier fruit contains more sugar and, thus, more nutrients. It’s a double win. A nutrient-dense fruit is tastier and more nutritious.
Feed the soil, not the plant
Keith doesn’t consider himself an organic farmer. Now that’s a surprise. But come to think of it, what was organic farming called a hundred years ago? Farming. Plain old farming.
Modern agriculture is full of chemical inputs: fertilizers to feed the plants and herbicides to kill the weeds. Keith doesn’t believe in that. He refrains from chemical inputs and concentrates on the fundamentals. His enduring objective? Feed the soil and let the soil feed the plant.
Keith wants his farm to be sustainable–capable of continuing–without the aid of the usual chemical inputs. To do that, he had to find another way to grow healthy (or even healthier), nutritious (or even more nutritious) crops and livestock while continuing to earn a profit.
More to follow…
Alcohol content of most of the popular drinks in the Philippines
Since I introduced brix earlier, I decided to follow it up with this short list of the most popular drinks consumed by the masses.
These are estimates since none of the distilleries post the alcohol content of their poison:
- Beer (local brands: San Mig Pale Pilsen & San Mig Light) — 5% alcohol by volume
- Gin (local brand: GSM Blue) — 30 to 35%
- Brandy (local brand: Emperador) — 35% to 40%
- Rhum (local brand: Tanduay) — 35% to 40%
Table wine, which I wish was more popular, has anywhere from 5 to 15% alcohol by volume. Wine is distilled grape.
Brandy is distilled wine. Since wine is distilled grape and brandy is distilled wine, then brandy is double-distilled grape.
Rhum (or rum) is distilled from sugarcane.
And finally, gin. Gin in the Philippines appears to be distilled from sugarcane (instead of other grains as is common in other countries).