Food scientists at the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences are trying to grow a better-tasting tomato. They evaluated more than 50 tomato types, which were picked half-ripe and breaker (when the tomato is just showing signs of ripening). A chemical flavor analysis was done on the tomatoes, and then they were taste-tested by a panel.
"Once we identify the ones with really great flavors, we can work with geneticists to identify the genes that cause these flavors," says Rob Shewfelt, a food scientist at the University of Georgia.
"Breeders taste them when they are ripe, and they choose varieties based on how well they ship," Shewfelt told the Cooperative Extension Service. "But since tomatoes aren't shipped ripe, we're looking for selections that are acceptable when picked 'breaker' and allowed to ripen."
Researchers say that genetic modification has been done on tomato flavor, but nobody has asked consumers what constitutes a top-quality tomato. "When I buy [grape tomatoes], I know I've got a good chance of getting a good-tasting tomato," Shewfelt says. "But when I buy big, slicer-type tomatoes, I have no clue as to whether they will have any flavor."
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor