The team measured amounts of chlorophyll, responsible for green color, and prolycopene, a type of carotenoid that makes tomatoes orange. Overall, tomato varieties with high amounts of chlorophyll also had higher sugar content. Tomatoes with a lot of prolycopene had higher amounts of the volatile compound 6-methyl-5-hepten-2-one, which is partly responsible for that distinct sweet-tomato smell and can also affect flavor. Taking all these chemical components into consideration, the researchers concluded that the tastiest tomatoes strike a balance between chlorophyll and prolycopene content, and aren’t necessarily the ripest ones.
There is a somewhat curious catch, however: the scientists didn’t actually taste any of the tomatoes they studied in order to see if they were actually any better. Essentially, they performed a chemical analysis of the tomatoes, and figured out that slightly under-ripened ones with a few green spots will have the most sugar, and the most tomato-y scented taste, and concluded that that balance would be ideal.
There’s no word yet on how the oblong lumps of heirlooms affect the flavor, but I still always pick the ugliest ones.
High-Throughput Chlorophyll and Carotenoid Profiling Reveals Positive Associations with Sugar and Apocarotenoid Volatile Content in Fruits of Tomato Varieties in Modern and Wild Accessions [Yusuke Aono, Yonathan Asikin, Ning Wang, Denise Tieman, Harry Klee and Miyako Kusano / Metabolites]
Science in your summer garden [Leigh Krietsch Boerner / Chemical and Engineering News]
Image: Public Domain via NeedPix