Remember how in junior high you used to try to convince yourself that beautiful people were congenitally dull? With tomatoes, it’s actually true! Everyone knows that handsome rosy tomatoes from the supermarket taste blander than the ugly heirloom variety from the farmer’s market (or your backyard). As it turns out, it’s genetic — the gene that makes tomatoes ripen uniformly, and thus makes them look appealing when sitting in grocery produce sections, also ruins their taste.
Farmers have been selecting for this even-ripening gene for 70 years, little realizing that they were closing the flavor gap between a tomato and a water balloon. Now, almost all commercial tomatoes go beautifully red all over when ripe, and almost all have reduced sugar and reduced tomato-y taste.
Researchers found that they could fiddle with a tomato’s genes and get a better-tasting fruit that still has the uniform-ripening mutation. But they don’t plan to put that science-hero Ubertomato on the market, because they figure you’ll refuse to eat it. So if you want to eat a tomato that tastes like a tomato, your only option is to skip the store and eat less-attractive wild tomatoes or heirloom varieties. It all looks the same in your stomach anyway.
- Flavor Is Price of Scarlet Hue of Tomatoes, Study Finds, New York Times
- Why supermarket tomatoes look great but taste bland, Not Exactly Rocket Science
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