If you ever tried home grown tomatoes you probably wandered why they taste better than the commercially produced ones or the ones you commonly find in supermarket shelves. A team of scientists from the Us and Spain coordinated by Ann Powel from University of California in Davis have discovered the reason why: a genetic mutation, that reduces the amount of sugar and other compounds found in the fruit.

cut tomatoesThe taste and quality found in a tomato are directly related to a gene called Glk2. Glk2 is responsible for the ripening of the tomato as it manages the level of sugar produced in the fruit, which has consequences in its final taste. It is responsible for the photosynthesis, which converts sunlight in sugars and other compounds that makes the fruit tasteful. 

Since the 1940s tomato breeders have been selecting fruits that had a uniform green colour which produced a well balanced uniform red ripening effect which is what consumer are more interested in buying . In other words the visual effect has been more important than the quality and the taste. Scientists have discovered that the ripening of the uniform tomato that has been sought after for all these years is associated with a mutation of the protein Glk2 which is active in the fruit as well as leaves but that in uniform coloured tomato this is deactivated.   The mutation seams to deactivate this protein, which is what gives taste to the tomato. Therefore a more uniform red colour tomato impairs its taste.

 Now that we understand the mechanism we can assume that it is enough to manipulate the gene in order to improve its taste. Although it is possible, transgenic manipulation may not be necessary as it is enough to interbreed with other selected tomato varieties, which contain more glk2 properties. 

It is unlikely that we will find this kind of product in our supermarket shelves in the next future. Glk2 is not a magic potion, moreover as scientists confirm other factors influence the taste of a tomato as much or more than this protein and this could be the way tomato are cultivated and manipulated which at the end of the day may be more effective in improving the taste of a tomato.

 If the future looks bright for present the moment if we want to taste good tomatoes as a rule, the best choice is to buy the ones that have been produced at shorter distances as these have ripened naturally with sunlight and in the open air. Tomatoes that have have travelled long distances may look great but have usually uninspiring taste.