Washington: A flavour face-lift for supermarket tomatoes may be in store, thanks to a group of researchers.
The University of Florida scientists sequenced the genome of 398 wild, heirloom, and supermarket tomato varieties. With the help of human taste panelists, they then identified the 28 most pleasurable tomato flavour and odour chemicals, including leafy geranylacetone, floral beta-ionone, and citrusy 6-methyl-5-hepten-2-one. Most supermarket tomatoes have much lower levels of 13 of these appealing molecules than heirloom varieties have, lead author Harry Klee said.
To figure out which regions of the tomato genome are responsible for the biosynthesis of these desirable compounds, the team turned to tomato varieties that make them at high levels. The work provides a chemical and genetic road map to improved tomato flavour, Klee noted.
“Here’s what’s missing, here’s why, and here are the molecular markers you can use to help breed back these lost traits,” Klee revealed. “We are trying to push the flavour calendar back decades to recapture the characteristics that were present in tomatoes in the first half of the 20th century.”
A C&EN Speaking of Chemistry video revealed the answer to the question – why are so many supermarket tomatoes tasteless and rock hard? In the 1990s, breeders developed a tomato that produces less of the hormone ethylene, so they stay hardened for shipping and then ripen in store.
That delayed ripening combined with other breeding moves have made tomatoes bigger, redder and great for shipping, but also less satisfying in salad.
This latest video shows how scientists are learning how tomatoes mature so that soon you may see and taste totally terrific tomatoes at the supermarket.
The study appears in Journal of the American Chemical Society. (ANI)