How Geneticists Are Attempting to Restore the Actual Taste of Tomatoes
Sometimes progress doesn’t taste so good. As things get bigger and sturdier, something may be lost. That’s precisely what happened with tomatoes. While they may be massive and able to withstand long journeys to ensure we have easy access to them, what we get now isn’t what they’re actually supposed to be.
Brian Handwerk looked into the attempts of geneticists to reclaim the actual taste of tomatoes for Smithsonian.com. He writes:
“Tomatoes are the world’s highest-value fruit or vegetable crop, with farmers producing more than 170 million tons of them worldwide in 2014, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. But our insatiable appetite for this bright fruit has had consequences. The mass-produced varieties regularly available in world markets travel well, store for weeks, and cost relatively little—but they’ve also lost what made them so desirable in the first place.”
And what made them so desirable? Handwerk describes the “essence of true tomato taste” this way:
“It’s incredibly complex. Flavor is already an intricate combination of what the tongue tastes and the nose smells. But the tomato’s flavor is especially layered, involving chemicals like acids and sugars (which switch on taste receptors) as well as compounds known as volatiles (which get our smell receptors in gear)….It’s this beguiling combination of taste and smell that delivers the distinctive tomato flavor—and is largely responsible for the taste problem tomatoes face today.”