Tomatoes ripe for improvement

| | August 27, 2013

Science is trying to build a better supermarket tomato.

At a laboratory here at the University of Florida’s Institute for Plant Innovation, researchers chop tomatoes from nearby greenhouses and plop them into glass tubes to extract flavor compounds — the essence of tomato, so to speak. These flavor compounds are identified and quantified by machine. People taste and rate the hybrid tomatoes grown in the university’s fields.

“I’m 98 percent confident we can make a tomato that tastes substantially better,” said Harry J. Klee, a professor of horticultural sciences. He hopes that the fruits of his labor will be available to commercial growers within four or five years and in supermarkets a couple of years after that. He thinks he can make seeds for better tomatoes available to home gardeners even sooner, within a year or two.

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