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
Lexile

Bite into a supermarket tomato and you'll probably notice something missing: taste. Scientists think they can put the yum back into the grocery tomato by tinkering with its genetic recipe.
 
Researchers are reinstalling five long-lost genetic traits that 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 that 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, a nutrition professor at Tufts University, applauds the work, but 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, who 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.

Filed Under:  
Assigned 65 times
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What's wrong with modern tomatoes?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (16)
  • arianam-
    2/13/2017 - 08:43 a.m.

    Over the years of tomato production, tomatoes have become bland, or, enough satisfying taste. Mainly because mass production of tomatoes have neglected tomatoes' taste, and focus on the size and quality of it.

  • vmargaret-dav
    2/13/2017 - 04:50 p.m.

    In response to "How to make a tastier tomato," I disagree that tomatoes should be modified to taste better. One reason I disagree is that more people would buy tomatoes if they tasted better, but the scientists want more sugar in the tomato to make it taste this way. Tomatoes wouldn't be a healthier decision. Another reason I agree is that scientists could end up spending thousands of dollars on these expiraments. In the article it says, "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." This shows that the scientists are concerned and want more sugar in bigger tomatoes. A third reason I disagree is that if more sugary tomatoes are grown, then less heathier tomatoes will be sold, giving people no choice but to buy the sugary tomatoes. Even though the taste of the tomatoes may turn out good, I still think that it would be a problem to modify tomatoes.

  • bmaria-dav
    2/14/2017 - 06:53 p.m.

    In response to "How to make a tastier tomato ," I agree that scientists should continue this experiment. One reason I agree is that if this experiment works, you could get a better tasting tomato. Another reason is that it also shows a new way how to make fruits and veggies taste better without genetically modifying them. A third reason is, the tomato's could also taste more natural, like that freshly picked taste. In the article it states, "Good tiny heirloom tomatoes, are like eating candy," children could like the tomato's more than candy some day, who knows. I think
    that scientists should keep up the good work on making fruits and veggies taste better and aren't genetically modified.

  • smartina-dav
    2/14/2017 - 09:25 p.m.

    In response to "How to make a tastier tomato ," I agree that they should be experimenting and try to give more taste tomatoes. One reason I agree is that scientists are using mostly natural breeding methods, not genetic modification technology. Another reason is that more people would by tomatoes and worry to plant them more if they tasted good. It says in the article, "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".

  • eharlan-dav
    2/16/2017 - 07:01 a.m.

    In response to "How to make a tastier tomato." I agree that changed the way tomatoes taste would be a good thing. One reason I agree is that they are doing it mostly all-naturally as it says "The scientists are using mostly natural breeding methods, not genetic modification technology". Another reason is that it will let the consumer experience a fresher version of tomatoes how they use to be. Even thought many think this will harm humans and you haven't read up on the topic it really won't, because scientist are just added the extra sugars needed to grow those bigger tomatoes.

  • polivia-dav
    2/16/2017 - 10:19 a.m.

    From reading this article, I agree with the modification of tomatoes in stores. Many think that it is harmful to eat foods that are altered. However, in the article it states, "The scientists are using mostly natural breeding methods, not genetic modification technology." Another reason I agree with this is because it is to benefit society. Over the years, the taste of tomatoes has become bland. If researchers modify this food, they will become sweet again. Another example in the article is, "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." I hope people continue to study and test this modification. Soon enough, society could have fresher, riper tomatoes.

  • dsarah-dav
    2/16/2017 - 06:27 p.m.

    I disagree with this article, "How to Make a Tastier Tomato". One reason why I disagree is because it could be dangerous. They are using chemicals to "make better tomatoes" that could end up killing people or sending them to hospital. Another reason why I disagree is the reason why its happening. They are doing it because they want the tomatoes to taste more pleasing. It would be wiser to invest money in researching a way to stop a sickness in which there is no known cure or helping needy, but no, something that you don't even need to buy gets the money so it can taste better. A third reason why I disagree is because it may not even work. It says in the article, "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, who generally doesn't do the taste testing in his lab."

  • smatthew-dav
    2/16/2017 - 08:46 p.m.

    In response to this article I agree that this can be good for modern foods. One reason I agree is that it can make modern foods better for you. Another reason is that it can make foods taste better.

  • rmichael-dav
    2/16/2017 - 09:22 p.m.


    In response to "How to make a tastier tomato," I agree that Tomatoes don't have enough flavor. One reason I agree is that when they are bigger there is less flavor/sugar. Another reason is that you can keep the size. It says in the article "have been bred for size and sturdiness at the expense of flavor" . A third reason is that it tastes like candy. "are like eating candy". Even though people think GMO's are bad, I think there good because it makes the tomatoes taste like candy, taste better, and you can keep the size.

  • gmatthew-dav
    2/16/2017 - 09:47 p.m.

    I read the article: how to make a tastier tomato, I liked the article because it explained how the tomato had gotten untasty and how the scientists were going to fix it. The first point in the article that supports how they are going to fix the tomato is "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" this explains how genetically modifying tomatoes has decreased their taste and possible ways to fix it. The second point in the article that supports my opinion is "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". This shows how they will solve the problem of the untasty tomato by studying other tasty plants. My third and final point is "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" This shows how they are continuing to solve the problem of the bad tasting tomato and how the scientists will fix it. In conclusion I liked this article because it focused on how to make the tomato better and I think that is important for consumers to be happy with their produce and how the process is going about to make a better tomato.

Take the Quiz Leave a comment
ADVERTISEMENT