Have you ever bitten into a vine-ripened heirloom tomato fresh out of the garden? There is absolutely nothing like it…sweet, juicy and delicious! In a dream world, grocery tomatoes would taste just like this. Unfortunately, this just isn’t the case. The answer as to why is more complicated than you may think.
Did you know that the flavor of a tomato is not only influenced by how ripe it is but also by its genes? The genes of a tomato are a key factor in determining the taste, or lack thereof.
About 70 years ago, farmers noticed that some tomatoes were ripening uniformly, and others had green on top, which made it challenging for growers to know when the tomato was fully ripe, and shoppers did not like the look of them either. It was realized that tomatoes without the green top had a random genetic mutation, called the “uniform ripening” trait. After farmers selecting the uniform ripening tomatoes repeatedly and crossing them with other uniformly red tomatoes, this created the “perfect” grocery store tomato you see today.
Unfortunately, neither farmers nor researchers realized that this “perfect” tomato trait was not so perfect after all. It disabled a gene in the tomato that regulates chlorophyll (the green pigment).
“Ann Powell, a plant scientist at the University of California, Davis, and her research group reported in a 2012 Science article that the chlorophyll concentrated in the green shoulders also increased the level of flavor-creating sugars for tomatoes. When the tomatoes’ green shoulders were bred out, so were the chlorophyll and extra sugars—and the tomato’s flavor. And this mutation was ubiquitous; when Powell and her colleagues examined 25 commercial tomato varieties from all over the world, they found the uniform ripening flavor reducing mutation in all of them”.
“The mutation they describe in their paper is in literally 100 percent of modern breeds sold in grocery stores today,” said Harry Klee, a molecular geneticist at the University of Florida, who studies the chemistry and genetics of flavor in fruits and vegetables. “It’s a really good illustration of some of the problems with modern breeding of tomatoes” (Why tomatoes taste bad, how biotech could revolutionize a 'lost' fruit—and why you may never eat one | Genetic Literacy Project).
Tomato breeders didn’t stop there. Tomatoes were also bred to be more productive and heartier to withstand handling and traveling long miles. These factors all contributed to the lack of flavor in our grocery store tomatoes today. Scientists are working on ways to alter genes to give more flavor to the grocery store tomato.
Want a better way than genetically altered tomatoes that have traveled more miles than we care to think about?
Heirloom, baby! By growing your own heirloom tomatoes, you are able to skip the grocery store and go straight for the freshly-picked beautiful tomatoes, the way God intended. Let’s head back to the Garden of Eden with the Eden Grow Tower. Not only can you grow beautiful, vine-ripened tomatoes, you can grow them all year long in your home! No more settling for January grocery-store tomatoes!
Whether you are interested in purchasing one of our towers or not, we want to highly encourage you to grow your own food! We have a core value here at Eden for self-sustainability and, of course, beautiful, healthy, and delicious food for you and your family! #growyourown