Even though botanists consider it a fruit, the tomato is Argentina’s favorite vegetable. They consume it on a daily basis, in salads, or stuffing, in sauces, or as garnish. However, even though it can be used in a plethora of preparations, Argentinians can only buy very few tomato varieties in grocery stores: they can only find round, large, and pale tomatoes, which are usually bland and have a dull taste. As a result, scientists from the Faculty of Agronomy of the UBA (Fauba) and Conicet are conducting a research project to solve this limitation and to increase the reservoir of seeds available for this species.
They are trying to recover the germplasm of the old varieties of this vegetable that were consumed habitually in Argentina during the first decades of the XX century. “We are already harvesting the first tomatoes obtained from seed varieties used in orchards almost one hundred years ago. We will hold the first tasting panel in a couple of weeks, during the ‘From the Producer to the Consumer Fair’ organized by Fauba. There current consumers will evaluate the taste of these new, old tomatoes, which are the ones their grandparents used to eat,” stated Dr. Fernando Carrari, Conicet researcher and Professor of Genetics at Fauba.
It is usual for older people to say that the tomatoes they ate when they were kids were much tastier than the ones now. The flavor of the products being offered in grocery stores nowadays was slowly attenuated. Why did this happened? According to Carrari, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, successive waves of Spanish and Italian immigrants brought their forms of production and varieties of tomato seeds whose germplasm – the genes that give them their main characteristics – responded to the demand of that time. Other factors that affected the tomatoes flavor were that consumers used to live geographically closer to the producer, the product’s seasonality, its rapid commercialization after harvest, and the old varieties limited yield.