Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Why our supermarket tomatoes are sturdy and flavorless.

Having dinked with tomato breeding and genetic manipulations to make our supermarket tomatoes sturdy, colorful, and tasteless, now geneticists have tried to figure out why flavor got thrown away. Tieman et al. combined tasting panels with chemical and genomic analyses of nearly 400 varieties of tomatoes to identify flavorful components that have been lost over time. Now maybe they will get to work and put the flavor back in?
Modern commercial tomato varieties are substantially less flavorful than heirloom varieties. To understand and ultimately correct this deficiency, we quantified flavor-associated chemicals in 398 modern, heirloom, and wild accessions. A subset of these accessions was evaluated in consumer panels, identifying the chemicals that made the most important contributions to flavor and consumer liking. We found that modern commercial varieties contain significantly lower amounts of many of these important flavor chemicals than older varieties. Whole-genome sequencing and a genome-wide association study permitted identification of genetic loci that affect most of the target flavor chemicals, including sugars, acids, and volatiles. Together, these results provide an understanding of the flavor deficiencies in modern commercial varieties and the information necessary for the recovery of good flavor through molecular breeding.

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