Upon biting into tomatoes purchased only moments before from the local supermarket, people might notice the popular fruits are lacking their taste. However, scientists are confident they found a way to bring it back by tinkering with several tomato genes.
Hence, the researchers say if all goes according to plan, mass-produced tomatoes will benefit from their specific sweet-yet-acidic taste once again in three years’ time. Because the demand for the fruits increased steadily over the last decades, tomatoes lost most, if not all some say, of their taste to bigger sizes. Nevertheless, University of Florida researchers are confident they will be able to correct the issue in no time.
“We know what’s wrong with modern tomatoes and we have a pretty good idea how to fix it”, says co-author of the study, Harry Klee.
According to the study which was published Thursday, January 26th in the journal Science, the yield of tomatoes tripled since 1960. Because of this, farmers were desperate to come up with ways of producing larger specimens and more per plant, say the scientists. According to them, this is the reason why tomatoes seem tasteless nowadays and deemed the outcome as a mere accident born out of negligence rather than an intended end result.
Growing larger fruits and more on a single plant leads to the latter’s inability to provide enough sugar for each tomato, says Harry Klee. As a result, the team of researchers compared heirloom and mass-produced tomatoes’ genomes to bring back the taste in grocery tomatoes.
In order to do that the team of researchers isolated tomato genes that were linked to pure taste and several sugar ones. On second thought, however, altering these would work against the growers’ size and shipping needs. As a consequence, Klee found other areas associated with aroma with no link to heartiness or size. As smell and taste work closely together to deliver the best experience of feasting on tomatoes, and other foods, in general, the study’s co-author believes reintroducing these tomato genes into mass-produced ones would be a good first step towards achieving a sweeter taste. Ultimately, even though working with tomato genes in the lab would prove more efficient, the researchers want to breed the next generation of sweetened tomatoes naturally.
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