Why Supermarket Tomatoes Suck - The UltimateFatBurner Blog

Why Supermarket Tomatoes Suck

We moved here to NE Washington in late March, so – as you might expect – it took a while for us to get settled in. Despite the effort involved in unpacking, I still took the time to plant a few seeds. My original intent was to plant the seedlings in containers, and “garden” on the upstairs porch, but at the last minute, I decided to clear out a weed-and-grass-choked raised bed in the backyard, and transplant my seedlings there. They’ve really taken off since then, which gives me hope for a bountiful harvest.

You can guess what I planted: tomatoes. If supermarket tomatoes were even halfway decent, I wouldn’t have bothered. But supermarket tomatoes are bad… hard and not particularly flavorful.

Why so? I always figured that picking them green and keeping them refrigerated had a lot to do with it. But – according to this New York Times article – there’s even more to it.

The unexpected culprit is a gene mutation that occurred by chance and that was discovered by tomato breeders. It was deliberately bred into almost all tomatoes because it conferred an advantage: It made them a uniform luscious scarlet when ripe.

Now, in a paper published in the journal Science, researchers report that the very gene that was inactivated by that mutation plays an important role in producing the sugar and aromas that are the essence of a fragrant, flavorful tomato.

…The mutation’s effect was a real surprise, said James J. Giovannoni of the United States Department of Agriculture Research Service, an author of the paper. He called the wide adoption of tomatoes that ripen uniformly “a story of unintended consequences.”

It’s not exactly a surprise that commercial growers chose looks over taste. Nonetheless, maybe they’ll pay some attention to this research. While I’m looking forward to munching the “fruits of my labor,” they’ll be gone by the end of summer. It sure would be nice to be able to find some decent-tasting tomatoes during the off-season, too.

Author: elissa

Elissa is a former research associate with the University of California at Davis, and the author/co-author of over a dozen articles published in scientific journals. Currently a freelance writer and researcher, Elissa brings her multidisciplinary education and training to her writing on nutrition and supplements.


  1. I sure do agree that the taste of store bought tomatoes has changed in the past few years. I’ve tried grape, cherry, roma, and greenhouse tomatoes. They just don’t seem to have the flavor they used to.

    Now I know why. I’ve tried to raise them on my deck the last three years. The first year went great, since then I don’t get enough to put in the effort.

    Hopefully your harvest will be worth the effort.

    Post a Reply
    • We’ll see. I’ve got half-a-dozen thriving plants – three of these are starting to blossom. 🙂

      Post a Reply

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