A Genetic Fix to Put the Taste Back in Tomatoes by kenneth chang

Summary of Article: In response to what he sees as the drainage of taste from supermarket tomatoes, Dr. Harry Klee, a professor of horticultural sciences at the University of Florida, has attempted to bring back the "old tomato" taste through traditional breeding methods. He has created a hybrid of heirloom and wild tomatoes, which possess better genes for the flavor chemicals deficient in today's supermarket tomatoes. Because he chose traditional breeding methods over genetic engineering, this work has taken Dr. Klee many years, as he has had to map the genomes of nearly 400 varieties of tomato. His new tomatoes have versions of certain genes that produce more volatiles (which produce flavor) than the traditional modern, supermarket tomato. Dr. Klee has already made a version of his new tomato available to home gardeners, which can be had after a small donation. However, tasting panels showed many differences in preference across different groups (men/women, foodies/non-foodies, old/young), with one student even picking a supermarket tomato as her favorite.

Heirloom tomatoes such as this one are a big part of Dr. Klee's research to find a better tasting tomato.

Analysis of Article: The information presented in this article is noteworthy because Dr. Klee is attempting, through natural breeding methods, to create a new (and hopefully, better tasting) tomato from the one to which we have become accustomed. His research and development is in response to the mass production of tomatoes, which he claims has caused their natural flavors to diminish. Similar things could be said about other produce, and perhaps Dr. Klee's research could lead to similar studies and projects about other types of produce.

New, better tasting tomatoes are a win for everyone!

My Big "Takeaway": After reading this article, I was intrigued by Dr. Klee's research, and impressed by the care and passion he seems to have for his work. To spend years and years developing a new tomato takes a lot of patience, and he seems to have created an interesting hybrid breed. I would be interested to try his new tomatoes, especially in comparison with the supermarket tomatoes that I normally eat.

Credits:

Created with images by Rob.Bertholf - "Humboldt County" • swong95765 - "Red & Yellow Tomatoes" • SubvertAParadigm - "13/365"

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