Scientists find the secret to tasty tomatoes
RODOLFO ROMANIf eating a tomato isn't your cup of tea because of the flavor, a different taste might change your taste buds' desire.
Published: July 11, 2012
Published: July 11, 2012
After years of tests and work, researchers at the University of Florida in Gainesville unveiled a great-tasting tomato using a naturelike secret recipe.
The tomatoes taste like heirloom tomatoes, said professor Harry Klee.
"Many heirlooms taste fabulous. Much better than commercial tomatoes," Klee wrote in an e-mail. "But a commercial grower could never grow these things and make money. They don't produce very many fruits and they are very susceptible to diseases."
Researchers grew the tomatoes and took advantage of a large range of flavors. The fruit was later provided to a panel of 100 consumers, who were asked how much they liked each one and determined the amounts of more than 50 different chemicals that could impact the flavor, said Klee.
"By correlating what was in the good ones vs. the bad ones, we were able to determine which chemicals contribute the most to consumer liking and the optimal concentrations of each of those chemicals — thus we developed a 'recipe' for a great tomato," Klee wrote.
The recipe is available to the public, but the purpose of the recipe is a roadmap for developing better tasting tomatoes that commercial farmers can grow and actually make an income, Klee added. However, it will take some years before that happens.
"But we know what needs to be done now," Klee wrote. "In the interim, we do hope to be able to release some varieties for home growers that will produce great tasting tomatoes and perform far better than the old varieties. I think we can do that very quickly."
Researchers haven't looked at the nutrition values of the new tasting tomatoes.
Klee added that there is a celebration for consumers as they get to witness progress toward flavor improvement, while companies have sought to perfect taste. As for the industry, it has a major impact.
"The methodology we used to identify which chemicals are the most important for flavor shows that many of those chemicals that people previously thought were really important, just aren't.
"Conversely, some of the chemicals that previously were overlooked are hugely important," Klee said.
"The ways in which food scientists were looking at flavor chemistry are not always correct."
However, tomato lovers might have to hold their horses till they grab a bite, because it will take time to find the right genetic components and introduce them into varieties with commercial levels of performance. "But hopefully in the meantime we can release some great-tasting varieties for the home grower," Klee said.