How to make a tastier tomato
How to make a tastier tomato A woman shops for tomatoes at a grocery store in Des Moines, Iowa. Scientists have cooked up a way to reintroduce a key ingredient into mass-produced tomatoes: taste. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
How to make a tastier tomato
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Bite into a supermarket tomato and you'll probably notice something missing: taste. Now scientists think they can put the yum back into the grocery tomato. They plan to tinker with its genetic recipe.
 
Researchers are reinstalling five long-lost genetic traits. These add much of the sweet-yet-acidic taste. Those traits had been bred out of mass-produced tomatoes for the past 50 years. The scientists are using mostly natural breeding methods, not genetic modification technology.
 
"We know what's wrong with modern tomatoes. And we have a pretty good idea how to fix it," said University of Florida horticultural scientist Harry Klee. He is co-author of a study. It appeared in the journal Science.
 
Yield of tomatoes has tripled since 1960. But there's been a slow decline in taste quality as tomatoes have been bred for size and sturdiness at the expense of flavor. Klee said a tastier supermarket tomato could be ready within three years.
 
"Nobody deliberately set out to make tomatoes that don't have flavor," Klee said. "Basically it was a process of neglect."
 
One key issue is size. Growers keep increasing individual tomato size and grow more per plant. The trouble is that there is a limit to how much sugar each tomato plant can produce. Bigger tomatoes and more of them means less sugar per tomato and less taste, Klee said.
 
So Klee and colleagues looked at the genomes of the mass-produced tomato varieties and heirloom tomatoes. The scientists want to try to help the grocery tomatoes catch up to their backyard garden taste.
 
Good tiny heirloom tomatoes "are like eating candy," said New York University nutrition professor Marion Nestle, who wasn't part of the study. "For people who care about how food tastes, it's a very big deal."
 
Klee isolated some sugar genes and ones that were more geared to pure taste. But he figured those won't work as well because they clash against growers' shipping and size needs. So he found areas that affect the aroma of tomatoes, but not size or heartiness. Reintroducing those into mass-produced tomatoes should work. This is because smell is a big factor in taste, he said.
 
Altering genes in a lab would make the process faster. But because of consumer distrust and regulations, Klee is opting for natural breeding methods - with help from an electric toothbrush to spread pollen. He's not quite there yet. But he is close.
 
Jose Ordovas is a nutrition professor at Tufts University. He applauds the work. But he cautions: "It is possible that some traits are not compatible and you cannot make the plant to behave exactly the way that you want."
 
Reggie Brown of growers' Florida Tomato Committee praised the study. He said it could help make supermarket tomatoes taste better.
 
No matter how much tinkering scientists do to mass-produced tomatoes, picking them too early and refrigerating them can make them bland. And consumers do have to be willing to pay more to have fresher, unrefrigerated tomatoes, said Klee. He generally doesn't do the taste testing in his lab.
 
"I don't like raw tomatoes very much at all. You know, I'm kind of tired of them," he said.

Source URL: https://www.tweentribune.com/article/tween56/how-make-tastier-tomato/

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What's wrong with modern tomatoes?
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COMMENTS (74)
  • krishav-jon
    2/13/2017 - 04:00 p.m.

    I did not know that tomatoes were naturally, not tasty it is surprising . Many people already do not like tomatoes . They might be shocked if they hear this news.








  • nicoler1-pla
    2/13/2017 - 06:48 p.m.

    Scientists are attempting to make tomatoes taste better, and one horticultural scientist, Harry Klee, is leading the charge. In recent decades, tomatoes have begun to be genetically engineered for size and stability rather than taste, leading to supermarket tomatoes that taste rather bland. Part of this issue is because each tomato plant can only produce so much sugar, and since growers are trying to grow more, larger tomatoes per plant, each individual tomato is not getting enough sugar. Klee is going to attempt to target genes that affect tomatoes' aroma, since smell is closely linked to taste. Making the required gene changes in a lab would be faster and easier, but more consumers are distrustful of GMO's and there are stricter regulations now, so Klee will naturally breed the tomatoes. I personally found this article interesting because healthy food is important to me and I try to avoid GMO's as much as possible. I think it's neat that scientists are now trying to reverse some of the negative effects of genetic engineering. This article relates to civic engagement because as consumers it is our responsibility to know what is in the food we eat and advocate for safe, non-GMO foods. The long term effects of GMO consumption are not known, and citizens must speak out against the potentially harmful consequences.

  • devynm13-
    2/14/2017 - 08:45 a.m.

    In Modern tomatoes, they just simply have no taste, and now scientists all over america are trying to get that sweet taste back into the sugary tomatoes that we once adored.

  • dejaunn-
    2/14/2017 - 08:46 a.m.

    modern tomatoes are to big and produce less sugar.

  • jacquelineb-pla
    2/14/2017 - 02:07 p.m.

    This article discussed the evolution of tomatoes over the last 60 years towards a less tasteful fruit. The plant had been subjected to ripening and genetic modifications that have impacted the flavor. Scientists from the University of Florida collaborated with others to develop more natural ways (bee pollination, and smaller tomato sizes) of returning the distinct flavor back to the tomato. This article relates to civic engagement in the way that it shows how the determination of a small group can have an impact on a large group. Scientists involved in the study are dedicated to producing produce that benefits society as a whole.

  • dannyh-har
    2/14/2017 - 02:57 p.m.

    The thing wrong with modern tomatoes is that the taste isn't there anymore. People use chemicals to try to make the tomatoes grow faster and taste better but, the taste is artificial. Researchers are reinstalling five long-lost genetic traits. These add much of the sweet-yet-acidic taste. Those traits had been bred out of mass-produced tomatoes for the past 50 years. The scientists are using mostly natural breeding methods, not genetic modification technology. One of the other issues is growers keep increasing individual tomato size and grow more per plant. The trouble is that there is a limit to how much sugar each tomato plant can produce. Bigger tomatoes and more of them means less sugar per tomato and less taste, Klee said.

  • danielb1317417-
    2/15/2017 - 08:46 a.m.

    interesting about how sintece geneticly inginear tomatos to not get rotton after just a little bit of time.

  • djw1-har
    2/15/2017 - 01:47 p.m.

    Modern tomatoes are made with artificial and unhealthy ingredients such as fertilizers these fertilizers are one of the major problems of lake Erie. Almost all of the farmers in this area use some kind of fertilizer that makes the runoff go into the Lake causing the lake to be unhealthy for the fish to swim and breathe in the water. Modern tomatoes also don't have as good of a taste because the mass tomato companies have use items that they think make it taste better but really just make it taste worst.

  • mcaitlin-dav
    2/15/2017 - 08:51 p.m.

    In response to, "How to make a tastier tomato," I agree scientists should install genetic traits. The first reason is "These add much of the sweet-yet-acidic taste," the modifications add the tomatoes a sweet taste. The next reason is "Those traits had been bred out of mass-produced tomatoes for the past 50 years," the scientist are adding traits that tomatoes lost years ago which is a good thing. The last reason is "The scientists are using mostly natural breeding methods, not genetic modification technology," the scientists aren't using modification from technology but they are using more natural ways to breed them. Although the growers are increasing the tomato sizes causing less sweetness, installing the genetic traits gives the tomatoes a sweeter taste.

  • andyz-har
    2/16/2017 - 08:16 a.m.

    The tomatoes we grow today are grown with pesticide and to make them seem fresh and bright red during shipping they use ethylene gas. All of these chemicals can make it harmful to a human. Some tomatoes aren't even grown in a field, there grown in a factory, if there even grown at all.

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