The Quest to Fix the Grocery Store Tomato

Grocery store tomatoes have long had a reputation for being bland, mealy, too firm, tasteless, and just not juicy enough. Now, scientists are working to save grocery store tomatoes, and not just by encouraging people to grow them or shop at farmers markets. Researchers are confident that they can put a good grocery store tomato on the market within 5 years. According to Harry Klee, Professor of Horticultural Science at the University of Florida, the No. 1 complaint about tomatoes in America is the absence of flavor. It’s a problem that’s been around for decades, and the problem lies in the entire market chain. Farmers are paid for tomatoes by the pound and they say they can’t control flavor. The growers who do get paid for focusing on flavor are local farmers whose customers live nearby and provide repeat business — often home cooks and restaurants. They are the growers who can pick tomatoes once they’ve ripened on the vine and don’t have to ship them and risk damage. Klee and numerous horticultural scientists are now working to bring flavor back to tomatoes by working on 9 different genes to put into them, creating fruit with the yield, disease resistance, and shelf life that growers and supermarkets want, but with the flavor that tomato lovers crave.