Building a Better Tomato

Cindy Zimmerman

There’s a chemistry to the flavor of food but most growers simply aren’t set up for the intense process of studying and improving the tomatoes they grow, according to University of Florida horticultural science professor Harry Klee who has been researching the chemicals that contribute to tomato flavor.

“Most everyone agrees there’s a huge problem with the commercial tomato and the flavor of those products,” Klee told attendees at the recent American Seed Trade Association’s Vegetable and Flower Conference. “We’ve set out a long term goal to understand flavor on a basic level and ultimately how to improve it.”

Klee reviewed his study led an international research team that included scientists from China, Israel and Spain that had just been published in the journal Science.

“We identified the important factors that have been lost and showed how to move them back into the modern types of tomatoes,” he said, stressing that this technique involves classical genetics, not genetic modification. “We’re just fixing what has been damaged over the last half century to push them back to where they were a century ago, taste-wise. We can make the supermarket tomato taste noticeably better.”

Listen to Klee’s presentation here: UF Horticultural Science Professor Harry Klee

ASTA, Audio, Vegetables