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Crowd-sourcing Better Tomatoes

January 27, 2017

Researchers turn to panels of taste testers to identify key flavor chemicals lost during the past 100 years of commercial tomato breeding.


tomatoes-ketchup-sad-food-160791 Pexels 712

Can a panel of taste testers help identify where commercially-grown tomatoes went wrong? (Pexels/Public Domain)


Reclaiming tomato flavor. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

If you bite into a sweet, juicy heirloom tomato fresh from the garden, you can’t help but wonder where supermarket tomatoes – with their mushy, tasteless flesh – went wrong. University of Florida researcher Harry Klee says the gradual loss of flavor was a side-effect of breeding for improved yield, disease resistance, and shelf life.

HARRY KLEE (University of Florida):

The problem is the consumer has been totally left out of the equation.


Klee and his team want to change that. They had people rate 160 varieties of tomatoes, and then identified the most important flavor compounds.


What we find is roughly half of the chemicals contributing to that flavor are really significantly down in the modern tomato. They’ve been lost.


In Science magazine, Klee’s team outlines a genetic blueprint for restoring flavor to commercially viable tomato varieties. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard