Technology: Researchers look for crops that grow well and taste well

There's a big yield and they look good. But do they taste good?

Modern crop produce does not taste as good as older varieties, according to Prof Antonio Granell at the Institute for Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology in Valencia, Spain.

Today’s crops are favoured by growers not for their taste, but because they yield well in large fields, and can be harvested efficiently.

They can grow throughout the year, adapt to different soils, and withstand diseases, pesticides, and long periods of refrigeration.

However, they do not taste very good, says Granell, whose research objective is to bring back the taste.

“The market currently rewards farmers for quantity, not quality,” he says, going as far as saying fruits and vegetables sold today “taste like water”.

He is examining the DNA of tomatoes, in search of genes that affect taste, using the seeds of older varieties stored by researchers over the past 40 years.

Prof Granell hopes to cross-breed resilient, nutritious and flavour-filled tomatoes.

He says much of the antioxidants and amino acids that make tomatoes healthy also taste good.

The big challenge is to grow better tasting crops at a bargain price.

The challenge is that when the “traditional” better tasting crops are farmed industrially, they typically yield less food, are more vulnerable to disease and parasites, and spoil sooner than modern varieties.

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