Scientists Find Culprit in “Tasteless” Market Tomatoes

Posted June 28th, 2012 at 3:00 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Beware the gorgeous red tomato. In a cruel twist of fate, the same gene that enables a tomato to ripen evenly also robs it of sweetness, according to new research published in the journal Science.

For decades, breeders have prized uniform color in tomatoes, a red, fleshy fruit native to the Americas that's now grown worldwide and eaten as a vegetable. Popular varieties, plucked from the vine when they are a light green, ripen in transit to a bright red color that is perfect for grocery displays.

The problem with that process, researchers now believe, is the gene mutation that causes uniform ripening. It also disables a protein called GLK2 that boosts sugar production in tomatoes. The result: a lovely red fruit that many consumers say tastes like cardboard.

Researchers hope to fix the problem by manipulating GLK levels, and produce a tomato that will arrive at the grocery store both red and sweet.