Scientists search for secret of the tomato

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The Independent Online

Biochemical profiling of tomatoes may soon provide the answer to a question puzzling consumers for decades: why does a tomato grown in a garden taste so much better?

Biochemical profiling of tomatoes may soon provide the answer to a question puzzling consumers for decades: why does a tomato grown in a garden taste so much better?

Researchers in Wales have spent the past three years trying to discover why a tomato harvested from a grow-bag is tastier than mass-produced fruit from the supermarket shelf and believe they are close to finding the answer.

Dr Aileen Smith, a plant physiologist at the Centre for Analytical Biotechnology at the University of Wales in Aberystwyth, said: "The taste of tomatoes does not rely on one or two chemicals, such as sugar, but on the very complex mixture of chemicals which make up the fruit."

By investigating the tomatoes' complete biochemical profiles, the researchers believe they will be able to identify the combination of factors involved for the first time. The EU-funded research has already pinpointed one reason why shop tomatoes have less flavour; they are harvested too early and stored in cold temperatures.

The discovery has already been made by shoppers. Waitrose says sales of tomatoes still on their stems have more than doubled in the past two years.

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