The flavor of the tomato is due to an interaction between its aroma and taste. Now researchers from the U.S. and Japan have discovered that the flavor of the tomato is affected by a pigment that also determines its color. Researchers from the University of Tsukuba have developed a new method to rapidly measure the pigment profiles of tomatoes and used the technique to explore how pigments affect the taste and aroma of different tomato varieties.
The color of tomatoes is determined by the combination of different types of pigments, including carotenoids and chlorophyll. These pigments also affect the accumulation of aromatic compounds, such as sugar that affects the taste of tomatoes and the proliferation of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that determine the aroma of the tomatoes. When the fruit matures from green to red, the amounts of pigments and compounds related to the flavor also changes, but until now, the relationship between color and flavor has been unclear. "Pigments like carotenoids are tasteless," said lead author Professor Miyako Kusano, "but they are precursors of compounds called apocarotenoids-volatile organic compounds (AC-VOCs), which produces the fruity aroma in tomatoes and enhances its sweet taste that appeals to most of its consumers.