Breeders, scientists and engineers adapt the fruit – it’s no vegetable – to the 21st century. By Steve Rousseau
In May this year, an international team of scientists announced it had sequenced the tomato’s 35 000 genes. The knowledge could lead to larger yields, disease resistance and great flavour. In a recent study, researchers at the University of Florida identified key traits of a superior-tasting tomato, such as high levels of sugar and aroma-producing chemicals known as volatiles.
Industrially bred tomatoes do not have the flavour of heirlooms; now we know why. Researchers at Cornell and the University of California, Davis, pinpointed a genetic link to the mass-ripened tomato’s blandness. The ripening mutation bred into the fruit disables a gene responsible for chloroplast production. Fewer chloroplasts means less sugar and thus the bland taste, says Ann Powell of UC Davis.
MIT researchers have developed LiquiGlide, a coating that causes tomato sauce to effortlessly slide free from its glass prison. Crafted from edible materials, the coating contains a lubricant for the sauce to slip on. To keep it from leaching into the condiment, a finely grooved surface is placed underneath the coating; the ridges work like pores in a sponge, holding the lubricant in place.