Tomatoes Sequenced and also Lost Their Taste

The genome sequence of one of the world’s highest-value salad plants — the tomato — was decoded by an international team of scientists earlier in the year.

The tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is an increasingly popular fruit, with 145.8 million tonnes produced globally in 2010. Learn more here or here.

On top of this, another study has revealed that decades of breeding the fruits for uniform color have robbed them of a gene that boosts their sugar content.

The finding is a massive advance in our understanding of tomato fruit development and ripening.

Farmers pluck the fruits from the vine before they are ripe, and for about 70 years breeders have selected tomatoes that are uniformly light green at that time. This makes it easier to spot the tomatoes that are ready to be harvested and ensures that, by the time they hit supermarket shelves, the fruits glow with an even red color. Wild varieties, in contrast, have dark green shoulders, and that makes it harder to determine the right time to harvest.

Unfortunately, while the light green mutation is beneficial to farmers, it’s not such a sweet deal for consumers. It seems those tomatoes have less sugar and don’t taste quite as good. Learn more here.

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