University of Florida researchers say they believe they've unlocked the key to creating commercial tomato varieties that taste like heirloom varieties.
A team led by UF horticulture professor Harry Klee analyzed the chemical components of about 100 tomato varieties, including many heirlooms, according to a news release.
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As part of their work, they calculated the levels of each chemical identified.
They then subjected the tomatoes to taste tests that involved 13 panels of 100 people who rated each tomato's taste.
The results showed that some chemicals thought important to taste weren't, and some chemicals not considered important were.
Cis-3-hexenal, for example, was long considered important to tomato taste because of its abundance.
But the taste tests showed no correlation to what people liked.
Geranial, on the other hand, was considered less important. But it correlated strongly with the highest-rated tomatoes and enhanced sweetness.
Heirloom varieties that rated high included cherry tomatoes Cherry Roma and Maglia Rosa; medium-sized Ailsa Craig and the large German Queen.
"We really have to rethink the way that we look at what is the chemistry of flavor," Klee said in the release.
His research now has begun to look at ways to transfer those important flavor chemicals into commercial tomato varieties.