Big genetics study blazes path for bringing back tomato flavor | Science News

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Big genetics study blazes path for bringing back tomato flavor

Genetics of heirloom vs. mass-market varieties suggests new targets for breeders

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2:09pm, January 26, 2017
various tomatoes

UNITED NATIONS OF TOMATO  Studying the genetics of flavor in heirloom tomatoes (shown) suggests ways to breed more taste into supermarket varieties, a new study finds.

An analysis of nearly 400 kinds of tomatoes suggests which flavor compounds could bring heirloom deliciousness back to varieties that were bred for toughness over taste.

About 30 compounds are important in creating a full-bodied tomato flavor, says study coauthor Harry Klee of the University of Florida in Gainesville. He and colleagues have identified 13 important molecules that have dwindled away in many mass-market varieties. Some of the flavor compounds deliver such a thrill to the human sensory system that even a modest increase could make a big difference, the researchers report January 26 in Science.

“I think this will definitely help,” says Alisdair Fernie, who was not part of the study but has studied tomato chemistry at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam, Germany. “Taste is incredibly complex,” he says, so creating more

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