One reason much of the modern produce we buy tastes so bland is because our agricultural system has bred modern varieties for ship-ability and the ability of produce to be picked by machine, rather than flavor.
While this has expanded the access to produce (both geographically but also in terms of cost due to the ability to use automation), it’s meant that consumers often have to choose between shelf life and good taste.
But, advances in plant genetics could change that. If we could understand the genes that are responsible for durability, that could inform how we breed or gene-edit varieties that can combine desirable taste attributes with durability.
Researchers in China published a paper in Nature Plants identifying the gene (fs8.1) responsible for making roma tomatoes elongated and crush-resistant enough to be machine-harvestable and even demonstrated that it would work in alternative varieties without changing their taste.
Both the paper and the Science article on it are worth checking out.
To confirm the strength of the fruit, the researchers squashed nearly 150 tomatoes in a laboratory press to measure their breaking points, a bit like a crash test for vehicles. “The juice spurts out like a bomb exploding,” Li says. Knocking out the gene did not alter the flavor of either TB0249 or Ailsa Craig.
How to make fresh tomatoes less squishable
Erik Stokstad | Science