tomatoesIt is now official; tomatoes and other produce have lost some of their flavor. A team of scientists at University of California, Davis1 did a study on tomatoes and flavor and found that tomatoes have lost a significant amount of their delicious flavor due to a process of selective breeding that promotes larger, more colorful tomatoes that have a longer shelf life over tomatoes that taste better.

If you think about it, it is logical. A farmer wants to get the highest yield from their crops that will last until they hit the market. The bigger and juicier their tomatoes look, the more people will buy them. It is basic economics and no one really noticed that the tomatoes themselves were losing flavor each generation. Because of this, the larger, redder, and longer lasting tomatoes have been cultivated commercially and yes, you were right, the tomatoes have lost their original flavor.

This is not an irreversible process. The growers can begin to re-introduce the breeds of tomatoes with more flavor and come up with a happy middle ground giving them a good yield and a tasty product. This is why heirloom seeds and small, organic farm tomatoes seem so much better; they are, on a basic genetic level. The team further inferred that many other produce crops might also have undergone a taste shift. So, take heart, you were right, things did used to taste better.

This reasoning is also why the idea of container gardening and urban gardening have become so popular. The heirloom seeds you buy can be grown with good, organic fertilizers and no pesticides to give you the old fashioned, tasty veggies you remember. Using whatever space you have you can grow veggies that are full flavored, nutritious, and safer.

It is totally amazing how much you can grow just in small container gardens. A bucket can grow a single tomato plant as well as a dozen or so carrots. A storage bin, converted into a growing container can grow a wide variety of greens and lettuces that can be harvested as baby leaf salad over and over again. A hanging flower pot can grow varieties of currant or grape vine tomatoes.

When figuring out a landscaping plan for your yard, set aside a few feet here and there for some container gardens and start growing your own natural bounty. Any space you want to use can yield you lots of fresh, delicious veggies that science has finally proven, taste like “the good ole days”.

1 Kupferschmidt, K. 2012, How Tomatoes Lost Their Taste,