Jun 26, 2019 | Updated: 09:24 AM EDT

Scientists Get to the Bottom of Flavoreless Store-Bought Tomatoes

May 18, 2019 09:25 AM EDT

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Tomato laboratory research
(Photo : The U.S. Food and Drug Administration)

One of the most common produce that groceries carry is tomatoes. Consumers go for perfectly ripe tomatoes that they can use at one or four green one that they can store for a longer time. Tomatoes are best used in salads and sandwiches. The said fruit can be eaten raw or cooked.

However, a group of scientists has reported that the tomato flavor in store-bought tomatoes has decreased. The scientists have studied tomatoes in search for the answer of its lowered quality.

A group of researchers from the Agricultural Research Service and the Boyce Thompson Institute has published a new study where they have mapped the genome of the modern cultivated tomato. In their study, they have compared the said genome to that of the tomatoes that are still growing in the wild. Aside from the thousands of previously unknown genes that were marked by the team in comparing the genomes of cultivated tomatoes with their wild relatives, they have also found a few more interesting discoveries.

They have found out the cultivated tomatoes being sold in groceries and supermarkets are missing over a thousand genes as compared to their wild counterparts. The scientists pointed out that this could be a result of the quest to develop plants that produce bigger tomatoes at a faster rate. They added that the growers seem to have favored plants that produce inferior tasting fruit unintentionally when they developed the process for producing more tomatoes to meet consumer demands.

James Giovanni, the co-author of the paper, stated that one of the most important discoveries they had in the study is a rare form of a gene that they labeled TomLoxC. He noted that this gene differs in the version of its DNA gene promoter. The said gene influences the flavor of the fruit by catalyzing the biosynthesis of a number of lipid or fat involved volatiles. He explains that such compounds are those that contribute to aroma and evaporates easily.

In the experiment and testing process that their group performed, the researchers have found out that the flavor-enhancing genes are only present in around 2% of the modern cultivated store-bought tomatoes. On the other hand, this gene was found in over 90% of the wild tomatoes.

The team stated that putting back the flavor on cultivated store-bought tomatoes could take some time. However, careful breeding could bring back some of the important flavor-producing genes that the plants lost over time.

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