When I was young, I used to bite a whole in the tomato and then suck the liquid and pulp out. I might still do but you will never know for I would not admit it.
So I took the initial bite. Dug the whole that shall lead me to the source. To the sweet, sour, tomatoey insides that smelled and felt just right.
I tasted nothing. I felt that I was chewing on something that changed its consistency while I was eating it. But it tasted nothing like tomato or anything else for that matter. It was not the first time in the last years and it will not be the last.
A week ago I purchased a multicolored "gourmet" pack of tomatoes. Five different varieties. I thought at least one or two types will taste nice. But then it tasted only bitter for the gourmet price I paid for tomatoes of different colors that were united in tastelessness.
What is wrong with our tomatoes?
Those around my age probably still remember the taste of a tomato.
Is it just nostalgia ("this used to be made from wood") or did tomatoes change?
Maybe you live in a warm place or you had the chance to pick a tomato from the vine while you were on vacation. I remember how they were bursting with aroma.
Tracing it down
An international team of researchers investigated this topic at the University of Valencia. And they found the answer.
Our modern tomato has nothing to do with the tomatoes we used to know. The genes of the plant changed - and therefore the taste.
The researchers analyzed 400 different varieties. Laboratory tests confirmed that the industrial tomatoes we buy in supermarkets have lost genes that were responsible for the delicious taste.
This is why tomatoes taste like nothing
The genes responsible for increasing the amount of sugar in the pulp are gone. Farmers wanted smaller plants they can harvest easier. While removing one gene, the other was removed too.
Antonio Granell, Professor at Valencia's Institute for molecular biology says: "In modern varieties, 13 flavorings are contained in a much lesser degree." The result: Tomatoes have less or no taste.
Bringing back the taste
Researchers attempt to bring back the taste to tomatoes and are in the process of identifying individual genes that are responsible for the flavoring. "We want to reinstate the genes contained in wild tomatoes", said Granell.
Years will pass until the new/old tomatoes will hit the supermarket shelves. Until then: Why not going the organic route?