According to a recent study published online in “Current Biology”, there’s a reason why ripe, homegrown tomatoes taste so much better than the insipid supermarket variety.
University of Florida researchers examined chemical profiles of 278 tomato samples representing 152 heirloom varieties.
The 152 “heirloom” tomato strains precede the commercial tomato breeding strains that constitute the bland, store bought tomatoes currently displayed in the produce section of today’s supermarkets.
Researchers found the heirloom tomatoes had a large chemical diversity spread across the strains, and instructed volunteers to taste a subset of heirloom tomatoes with the most chemical diversity.
The volunteers then rated their overall preference of each variety as well as overall flavor intensity, including sweetness and sourness.
The chemistry and taste test results showed that the best flavors were associated with 12 different compounds and sweetness to another 12 compounds, including eight that were also important for overall flavor.
The researchers also found that some scent molecules influence the perception of sweetness through the sense of smell, confirming that taste can be influenced by smell.
“We now know exactly what we need to do to fix the broken tomato,” and this could be the first step to restoring good flavor in commercial tomatoes, study author Harry Klee said in a journal news release.
“Consumers care deeply about tomatoes,” he noted. “Their lack of flavor is a major focus of consumer dissatisfaction with modern agriculture. One could do worse than to be known as the person who helped fix flavor.”
Now that researchers have identified the chemicals linked to the best tomato flavor, they can alter breeding programs to encourage plant strains that enhance flavor.
Want to try some out? Here are some resources to purchase Heirloom Tomato Seeds: