The Search for the Perfect Tomato

 

Various heirloom tomato cultivars

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Various heirloom tomato cultivars

If you were born before 1960, you could bear in mind how tomatoes
used to taste– delicious, juicy, and just ripened on the vine to produce a
gustatory delight. Back in the Midwest where I was raised, awaiting the tomatoes in late summer was something everybody looked forward to. But exactly what occurred ???? The tomatoes in the supermarket are pitiful variations of their cherished ancestors from the past. Even when you grow your very own, the taste simply does not make it. Something is doing not have and I questioned why.

I simply completed checking out a book called Tomatoland: How Modern Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit by Barry Estabrook. I thought this book would bring me some responses on what happened to this terrific fruit and it certainly provided those answers and then some. To make matters worse, check
out this quote from the author of the book.’Maybe our taste buds are attempting to send us a message. Today’s industrial tomatoes are as bereft of nourishment as they’re of taste. According to analyses performed by the UNITED STATE Department of Agriculture, 100 grams of fresh tomato today has 30 percent less vitamin C, 30 percent lessthiamin, 19 percent less niacin, and 62 percent less calcium than it did in the 1960s. However the modern tomato does shame its 1960s counterpart in one location: It includes fourteen times as much salt.’ Shameful !!!

The tomato began as a wild types known as Solanum chilense and was found in Chile, Peru, Ecuador and the Galopagos Islands. It was domesticated by Mayan farmers in southern Mexico and/or northern Central America. The Aztecs even had a recipe for salsa– hot peppers, salt, and “tomatls”. The tomato was presented to Europe throughout the Columbian Exchange. In Europe it was called “love apple” and “tomate” in colonial United States. Some thought it was harmful. In 1833, the Supreme Court stated it a veggie, however botanically it’s a fruit.

Tomatoland is actually about growing tomatoes in Florida, an area not normally suited for the tomato’s requirements and Florida tomatoes comprise about 1/3 of the tomatoes Americans eat. The book also details the scaries of the employees focused largely in Immokalee, FL which is rather a contrast to the well-groomed Naples, about an hour away.

Reading the brief review will touch on the lots of issues of the growers and the often deplorable conditions of the workers working in the tomato fields. However my main objective for this post is exactly what occurred to the flavor ??? And is it fixable ???

The chapter entitled “Issues of Taste” addresses the goal of the current breeders– that’s to discover a selection that really tastes like a “genuine tomato”. Crossbreeding began in the 1800’s by the botanist Alexander Livingston and has actually continued until this day in order to produce the best tomato for raisers and consumers.

In the last 50 years, sadly, reproducing preferred the raisers who desired higher yields, bigger size, the right shape and appearance and overlooked taste and nutrition. Genetic diversity has suffered significantly– the tomato now includes less than 5 % of the genetic material of the initial gene pool and the taste was lost. Lately, there’s even more emphasis on the recuperation of the right genes to replace this loss and find the right mixes to produce the ‘best tomato’.

John Detector Scott a professor of horticultural science at the U. of Florida Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, southeast of Tampa, FL. has developed over 30 selections of tomatoes over the last three decades. No genetic engineering here, he makes use of just antique crossbreeding like Livingston in the 19th century.

In the summer of 1988, Scott selected a nicely flavored sweet tomato
called Florida 7907 but it wasn’t acceptable for industrial raisers because it
was too spherical. Scott likewise selected an additional tomato called Florida 8059 that’d the right shape. He crossbred the two in 2002 to produce Florida 8153 which was well accepted by taste panels. He called this range Tasti-Lee.

Tomato taste is really complicated. Many of the taste is in the fragrance which is includes about 15-20 volatile substances having the most significant impact. Horticulturists claim that without them, a tomato won’t taste like a tomato. Tasti-Lee had a great balance of sugars, acids, and unstable substances, a fire-engine red color and very high concentration of lycopene, an antioxidant, currently declared to have favorable health benefits.

The right to market this selection was at some point granted to Whitworth Farms near Boca Raton, FL who took a chance with Tasti-Lee. Whole Foods was a client of Whitworth and in 2010 the tomato appeared in 16 Whole Food stores in Florida and ventured further into Washington DC shops.

Dr. Harry Klee, a fellow teacher at the U. of Florida in Gainesville is likewise searching for the best tomato. Together with conventional breeding, he utilizes a team of psychologists, statisticians, food scientists, and molecular biologists as well as taste panels to confer leading ratings to the very best varieties. Klee has identified 50 genes that have an effect on flavor.

Market researcher and psychophysicist, Howard Moskowitz, has
developed a computer system model to track the chemicals most liked in tomato
samples. One that regularly stands out is called beta-ionone discovered in the top-rated ranges. Eventually he wants to establish a formula for the best tomato feasible, i.e. which genes produce these chemicals most accountable for flavor.

So the pursuit continues. Dr. Klee says: “it may take 5-10
years to find the best tomato.” Tasti-Lee was simply a beginning.