- By Emma Woollagott
- Business Reporter Technology
As Franco Fubini, founder of fruit and vegetable supplier Natura, notes, “Taste is undoubtedly a recurring trend.
You may be surprised that the taste is not in fashion.
But it can be hard to find really tasty fruits and vegetables due to the demands of supermarkets, he explains.
“They needed longer-lasting varieties. For example, for a tomato, it had to have a thicker skin so it would not split easily; ripening tomatoes could be faster, which is more absorbent to water.
“Over time you choose your varieties for properties other than taste. The taste characteristic begins to lose its relevance, and if you select other properties as desired by nature, the taste will disappear.”
Mr. Fubini’s company specializes in seasonal products selected for their taste and sells its products to high quality restaurants and stores around the world.
“Part of this renaissance comes from restaurants because chefs have great influence,” he says. “Both that and the trip sparked this renaissance of taste, the search for taste.”
Growers and researchers are at the forefront of this research, using sophisticated techniques to produce fruits and vegetables with all the flavors of traditional varieties – all of which delight supermarkets.
Harry Glee, a professor of horticultural science at the University of Florida, focuses on tomatoes and works to understand the chemical and genetic makeup of fruit and vegetable flavors.
“Tomato is a long-term model system for fruit growth. It has a short generation time, large genetic resources and [est] The most important economic crop in the world.
“Only the second plant species to receive a complete sequence of its genes – a great aid to studying the genetics of an organism.”
The taste of plants is a complex phenomenon. In the case of tomatoes, it is the result of interactions between a dozen volatile compounds derived from sugars, acids and amino acids, fatty acids and carotenoids.
Professor Glee wants to identify genes that control the synthesis of volatile compounds and use them to produce tasty tomatoes.
“We are not yet in the final stages of combining advanced taste properties in a single line, but we hope to get there within a year,” he says.
Genetic modification (GM) can be used to improve taste by importing genes from other species, but products made in this way are banned in most countries of the world.
However, other genetic manipulations are more widely accepted. American company Pairwise works on new varieties of fruits and vegetables using CRISPR gene-editing technology licensed from Harvard, Brad and Massachusetts General Hospital.
Like GMOs, CRISPR involves the mutation of genes within a plant, rather than taking them from other organisms.
“We make very small changes in one or two pieces of DNA,” says Heaven Baker, co-founder of FireWire.
Such genetic modification is considered “non-genetic” in most countries in North America, South America and Japan. However, in Europe, where genetic modification is highly controversial, it is considered genetically modified and is subject to strict control.
After leaving the EU, the UK consulted on the use of genetic editing to change livestock and food crops in the UK.
Even in the United States, where feedback is low, some farmers are wary of genetic modification.
“We’re not fans of it. Although sometimes well – conducted innovation can work, we believe in tradition, not necessarily touching things – and returning to nature and nature. The way it works,” says Fubini.
But some findings can be very difficult without intervention at the genetic level.
One of Pairwise’s first products, in a couple of years, will be seedless blackberry, which the company says will give it a more consistent taste than traditional varieties. The company works on cherry without a stone.
All of these can be achieved through traditional breeding techniques, but since fruit trees take many years to ripen, this can be a very long-term plan.
“Some of the fruits we are interested in, cherry without cherry-like stone, can theoretically be obtained by choice, but it takes 100 to 150 years,” says Baker.
“The products we want to produce and the consumers want cannot reach the regular selection in our lifetime. It is very slow.”
Some players in the field of agriculture combine old and new techniques. Row 7, an American company that specializes in organic seeds, carries out breeding projects to create new and tasty products.
Its seed suppliers use traditional cross-pollination techniques and genetic selection – the ability to study molecular genetic markers in the entire plant genome – to predict taste-like traits with reasonable accuracy.
In addition, she has a network of 150 chefs and farmers who evaluate her work.
“This community evaluates the types that are still in development, giving their feedback about their capabilities in the fields and kitchens,” explains Charlotte Douglas, COO.
One of its primary products is badger flame beet, which was chosen to be eaten raw and sweet without soil.
“This category would have been lost if cooks and farmers had not stood by it. It expands our understanding of what a beat is and opens up new possibilities for research,” Ms Douglas said.
Some plants may have an inappropriate taste. Take kale, for example, although this green leaf is nutritious, its strong flavor can be put off.
Mr. Baker and his team work at a sweet, pleasant factory in Pairwise.
“Kale is very nutritious, but people don’t like to eat it. So we used genetic engineering to produce more nutritious leafy green vegetables, but they taste just like the old spinach varieties we used to have,” he explains.
For kale, strong taste is seen as a negative, but in general, the taste goes hand in hand with nutrition.
“The choice of taste means the choice of pleasure; the choice of nutrition means, for the most part, when you choose a complex taste, you also choose the concentration of nutrients,” says Ms Douglas.
“This means choosing organic systems – the type of agriculture that produces the most delicious plants; choosing for the most diversity.” Nt.