Published on May 26th, 2012 | by James Ayre


Why Do Fresh Tomatoes Taste So Much Better Than Store-Bought Ones?

May 26th, 2012 by


Fresh tomatoes are very flavorful, while store-bought ones sometimes don’t taste like much of anything. Why?

New research just published in the journal Current Biology answers that question.

“We now know exactly what we need to do to fix the broken tomato,” said Harry Klee of the University of Florida.

The flavor of a tomato depends on the sugars, acids, and aroma volatiles in it. This new research was done to identify which of these chemicals contributes to taste preferences the most.

The researchers first assembled chemical profiles of 278 tomato samples, representing 152 different heirloom varieties. Most of these varieties were bred before the commercial tomato varieties of today even existed.

The samples had a very wide chemical diversity, with variation in the aromatic volatiles between the different varieties as high as 3,000-fold.

The researchers then did a taste test with a consumer panel, using tomato varieties across the spectrum of chemical diversity. The panelists then rated the overall taste, the sweetness, the flavor intensity and the sourness. The panelists then did the same for commercial varieties.


Using a sophisticated statistical analysis of the tomato chemistry and the taste test results, they found the flavor intensity traces to 12 different compounds, and sweetness to 12 different compounds with 8 that also linked to overall flavor.

The researchers also found that some of the aromas increased the sensation of sweetness.

“In other words,” Klee says, “there are volatile chemicals unrelated to sugars that make things taste sweeter.”

The analysis also showed that some of the most common aroma volatiles didn’t contribute to the overall enjoyment of the tomato. And that many of the rarest and least common volatiles contributed the most.

“This is the first step to restoring good flavor in commercial tomatoes,” Klee says, and that could go a long way.

“Consumers care deeply about tomatoes,” he says. “Their lack of flavor is a major focus of consumer dissatisfaction with modern agriculture. One could do worse than to be known as the person who helped fix flavor.”

Source: Cell Press
Image Credits: Heirloom Tomato and Tomatoes

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

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