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MEASURING ROOT VEGETABLES BY HAND HELD REFRACTOMETERS
Background
It is easy to measure the solids content of pure liquids with a hand held refractometer.  Measuring fruit is quite simple; juice is extracted by pressing or squeezing.  It is somewhat harder to measure drier materials such as potatoes, squash, turnip etc. as the product can not be squeezed.

Methods
There are a number of different ways to measure the solids of root vegetables and it is best to experiment with the different methods with each vegetable to ascertain which gives the most reliable results in terms of extraction (sample size) and representation of the sample.

Slicing
This method of measuring the sugar content of root vegetables is to cut a very thin slice and place this on the refractometer prism.  Experimentation with the position of the illuminator flap (up or down) will help find the best result.  As light has to pass through the sample, be sure to cut as thin a slice as possible.

Squeezing
Taking a small cube of the vegetable and placing it in a garlic press sometimes allows enough juice to be extracted for measurement.  It is best to extract juice (not paste) for the best results.

Grating
For extremely dry root vegetables such as chicory, turnip, rutabaga etc., it is possible to extract juice by taking a half of a vegetable and grating it into a dish.  Once grated, take the sample and squeeze the juice by hand (like ringing out a cloth) into a second dish, which can be used for analysis.

In all cases, make sure that the sample is extracted from an area of the vegetable that is representative of the whole sample.  For example, if taken from near the skin, the solids may be different from a sample taken at the center.

For more information on hand held refractometers which can provide measurements for root vegetables please see the E-line optical refractometer, OPTi digital refractometer, DR portable refractometer, and Eclipse hand held refractometer web pages.

Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the contents of this FAQ.  However, Xylem Inc. can assume no responsibility for errors contained in this FAQ.
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