Building a Better Mass-Market Tomato

The New York Times:

Science is trying to build a better supermarket tomato. At a laboratory here at the University of Florida’s Institute for Plant Innovation, researchers chop tomatoes from nearby greenhouses and plop them into glass tubes to extract flavor compounds — the essence of tomato, so to speak. These flavor compounds are identified and quantified by machine. People taste and rate the hybrid tomatoes grown in the university’s fields.

From there, Dr. Klee and his collaborators, who include Linda Bartoshuk, director of human research at the university’s Center for Smell and Taste, used statistics to correlate people’s preferences with the presence, or absence, of particular flavor compounds, to devise a chemical recipe for the ideal tomato.

The supermarket tomato — even when grown with care and picked ripe — did not excel. “The best it will do is middle-of-the-pack,” Dr. Klee said.

Cherry Roma tomatoes were at the top of the charts, followed by heirloom varieties like Matina, Ailsa Craig and Bloody Butcher. Other heirlooms like Marmande and Oaxacan Pink ranked at the bottom, below the supermarket tomatoes, though perhaps these particular types just do not grow well in Florida.

Read the whole story: The New York Times

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