Pity the modern tomato. Scientists are questioning its tastiness. According to boffins, modern tomatoes lack the volatile organic compounds and sweetness of ‘heirloom’ varieties. By breeding for uniform colour and other modern retail attributes, we have cut ourselves off from flavour.
That may be so, but the way tomatoes are picked and packed sometimes doesn’t help. While we’re waiting for the new breed of super-tasty tomatoes to arrive, there is much we can do now, and simply, to improve the flavour of the tomatoes we already sell.
One of the quickest wins is allowing tomatoes to ripen as long as possible before picking. Products that travel long distances are often picked when they are under-ripe, which limits their flavour. British tomatoes, however, can be much riper when picked. According to Dr Philip Morley of the British Tomato Growers Association, this means they have better flavour and quality, thinner skin, and more time to develop their complex flavour volatiles.
The downside is that because they are picked riper and with thinner skins, British toms are more likely to suffer during transport and retail. Ethylene gas is the culprit: it’s produced naturally as fruit ripens but also hastens ripening in other nearby produce. The end result is waste and cost in the supply chain, and disappointment for consumers.
The industry has long sought practical and effective ways of controlling ethylene ‘in pack’. After several years and a substantial investment, we’ve developed our It’sFresh! technology - a blend of natural minerals and clay, sealed in a discreet food-grade strip: pop one in the bottom of your punnet and it’ll slurp up all the ethylene to keep produce fresher for longer.
Tesco is using it to great effect across a growing number of tomato varieties, now offering a ‘freshness guarantee’ of two extra days. With food prices soaring, it’s important to start viewing waste not as an area of competitive advantage, but as a fundamental KPI - like carbon emissions.
There are effective ways to reduce waste at minimal cost. Let’s use them and squish this rotten tomato of an issue.