BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Do you sometimes feel like tomatoes no longer taste like they used to? Scientists say you are right and they prove it through a study that found nowadays tomatoes to be bigger, firmer, and duller compared to those from 50 years ago.
For the research, they analyzed the genetic code of 400 different varieties of tomatoes – all from those you find in supermarkets to the goodies in farmers market – and found that many elements responsible for their iconic taste are now lost.
The study leader, Harry J. Klee, professor of horticultural sciences at the University of Florida, explained which are the three landmarks of the tomato taste. Firstly, there is sugar, responsible for sweetness. Then there are the acids that give the sour taste and, in the end, the “volatile” aroma compounds that provide the recognizable scent.
Klee explained that the optimal quantity of all these needed to be present in the tomato so that it might have the perfect taste and flavor. There are no specific compounds in it that, if are taken separately and presented to someone, he would be able to identify the tomato flavor. It is made up from the combination of all these three bigger compounds.
Yet the researchers proved that tomato breeders do not know these secrets. They succeeded in growing bigger and firmer tomatoes that are appealing and make the customers buy them. However, one or several volatile compounds had been lost in the breeding process and these handsome tomatoes are tasteless and faded.
Tomato lovers, do not despair. There are still some old school tomato harvesters around. There are some farmers that grow the so-called heirloom breeds by using some old generation seeds. But this comes at a price. These tomatoes may be making their way slowly into grocery stores, but they cost almost four times as much as regular tomatoes. Unfortunately, some are not willing to pay the difference, therefore they have to deal with the flavorless breeds.
Farmers generally use to breed tomatoes only for their appearance and not their flavor because this is the only profitable way for them. Also, they did not have access to sophisticated equipment that would have helped in the growing process. Now, using the results of the study, they will be able to improve the tomato market and reach $2 billion annually.
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