Stinking tomatoes

The last tasty tomato I consumed was from a former colleague’s garden. And that was over 20 years ago. When I survey the produce at grocery stores I go for the reddest, believing that they must be better. I’ve been fooled.

The New York Times reports:

The unexpected culprit is a gene mutation that occurred by chance and that was discovered by tomato breeders. It was deliberately bred into almost all tomatoes because it conferred an advantage: It made them a uniform luscious scarlet when ripe.

Now, in a paper published in the journal Science, researchers report that the very gene that was inactivated by that mutation plays an important role in producing the sugar and aromas that are the essence of a fragrant, flavorful tomato. And these findings provide a road map for plant breeders to make better-tasting, evenly red tomatoes.

These researchers have been able to turn the gene back on while also keeping the “red” gene active. The result, reports the Times:

To test their discovery, the researchers used genetic engineering to turn on the disabled genes while leaving the uniform ripening trait alone. The fruit was evenly dark green and then red and had 20 percent more sugar and 20 to 30 percent more carotenoids when ripe.

Now when will we get a chance to buy and eat the new and improved tomato? It could take a while.

…do not look for those genetically engineered tomatoes at the grocery store. Producers would not dare to make such a tomato for fear that consumers would reject it.

Oh, well. Pass the sucking red tomato.

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