TO-MAY-TO TO-MAH-TO

Scientists have discovered why modern tomatoes taste like nothing

Obsession
Life as Laboratory
Obsession
Life as Laboratory

Over the past few decades, commercially grown tomatoes have gradually lost almost all their flavor. And scientists can now prove that’s no accident.

An international team of researchers studied nearly 400 varieties of tomatoes, both modern and heirloom, to understand what’s changed inside the world’s most popular fruit.

They discovered that decades of breeding tomatoes to make them grow larger and more resistant to disease has depleted many of the chemicals that gave tomatoes their distinctive taste and aroma, which combine to form their flavor. The scientists were able to identify specific genetic changes as the culprits.

But it’s not all bad news. The researchers say seed providers could easily make commercially grown, supermarket tomatoes flavorful again using some basic cross-breeding techniques. The process would be similar to natural cross-pollination, except it would happen in a lab environment. Essentially, scientists would cross old tomato varieties with new ones, and select the offspring plants closest to what they want. After a few generations, that would result in better tomatoes, without any of the gene splicing that alarms anti-GMO activists.

Watch the video above for a glimpse of how the scientists conducted the study, and an explanation of how growers can make tomatoes more flavorful without adversely affecting the tomatoes’ size or immunity.

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