New genetic technique leads to tastier tomatoes
Every veggie lover knows that when it comes to shopping for produce, there’s no time to mess around. Whether you’re digging for the ripest bananas or the freshest cucumber, the key is identifying the traits that make the veggie the most delicious. Sadly, not every head of lettuce can be the crispest, and not every apple can be the brightest. But a team of researchers have found a way to use to science to make tastier tomatoes.
According to new study, scientists from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) have figured out how to make tomatoes release more of the substance that makes them flavorful. The research was sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and published in the journal Science.
“Around the world, the tomato is one of the most popular foods,” says Gert de Couet, director of the NSF Division of Integrative Organismal Systems. “This state-of-the-art analysis sets the stage to return it to the taste of decades ago by breeding informed by molecular genetics.”
The team of researchers agreed that tomatoes these days lack the right amount of sugars and volatile chemicals that make for better flavor, especially when compared to tomatoes from 50 years ago.
The first step was the identify which chemical impacts taste the most.
“We wanted to identify why modern tomato varieties are deficient in flavor chemicals,” UF/IFAS scientist Harry Klee. “It’s because they have lost the more desirable alleles of a number of genes.”
Using genetic analysis, the researchers mapped out the genes that control creating the “tasty” chemicals. Next, they replaced the undesirable alleles found in modern day tomatoes and replaced them with the desirable alleles, thereby creating tastier tomatoes.
“We identified the important factors that have been lost and showed how to move them back into modern types of tomatoes,” Klee said. “We’re just fixing what has been damaged over the last half-century to push them back to where they were, taste-wise. We can make the supermarket tomato taste noticeably better.”
There could also be economic advantages to tastier tomatoes. According to the Department of Agriculture, the United States is the second largest producer of tomatoes in the world.
By Rory Arnold, Earth.com Staff Writer
Source: National Science Foundation