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USDA Presents Flavor Saving Techniques for Tomatoes

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A report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is presenting its study on the flavor preservation in commercially sold tomato fruits at the 250th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.

To prevent over ripening during shipping, commercially sold tomatoes are picked when they are green. Packers also use ethylene gas to initiate ripening; however, the process is shown to reduce sugar and acidic flavor quality common in flavorful tomatoes.

Researchers tested several techniques to study flavor conservation as an alternative to genetic modification:

Heat to Reveal Sweet

One study added an additional step to the packing process: dipping green tomatoes in water for five minutes at 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Afterwards, tomatoes are cooled at room temperature before chilled between 41-55 degrees Fahrenheit. Studies revealed that heating tomatoes prior to chilling contained higher levels of its main flavor components, including 6-methyl-5-hepten-2-one, 2-methylbutanal and 2-phenylethanol.

Incubate with Methyl Salicylate

Researchers also tested tomato incubation with methyl salicylate (wintergreen oil) and found that the GRAS antifungal fumigant could be a viable option.

Treat With 1-Methylcyclopropene

Flavor was also successfully preserved when tomatoes were picked at the breaker stage (half-green, half-pink) and then treated with 1-methylcyclopropene (U.S. EPA-approved gas). The chilling step is then skipped as the gas prevents rotting at higher storage temperatures.

Scientists are currently assessing the most viable technique to share with the commercial agriculture industry.

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