Heirloom Flavor

The first step in a flavor improvement program starts with a simple question: what do people like and what’s in the varieties that people do like? In order to answer this question, we took a giant step back to “heirloom” tomatoes. There is absolutely no definition of the word “heirloom”. But most people accept that an heirloom is an old variety that predates the time of intensive commercial breeding. Most, though not all, are inbred (that is, they breed true to type). Contrary to popular belief, not all heirlooms taste good. We grew a broad cross-section of heirlooms, gave them to a panel of consumers and asked them to rate each variety. Don’t worry about the scale we used. It’s complicated. All you need to know is that the higher the score, the better it tasted. Note that there is some variation between years for varieties that were tested multiple times. All of these varieties were grown in our spring season at the University of Florida Suwanee River Research and Education Center in Live Oak, FL. Expect some variation in other parts of the country and from season to season. One can only hope that some of the really terrible varieties do better somewhere!
This work was published in: Science (2017) 355 (6323):391-394, and in Current Biology (2012) 22: 1–5. (DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2012.04.016). It was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation and from support of the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station.

Variety

LIKING

Maglia Rosa Cherry

30.5

Garden Gem

28.5

Early Red Chief

22.4

B hybrid

21.0

Tasti-Lee

20.8

St. Pierre

20.7

Peron Sprayless

20.0

W hybrid

18.6

Better Boy

18.3

Wisconsin 55

17.2

Garden Treasure

16.8

Livingston's Globe

16.4

Super Sioux

16.3

Bloody Butcher

16.2

Orange Queen

15.8

Valencia

15.5

Three Sisters

15.5

FLA 8059

14.2

Red Calabash

13.9

Czech Bush Red

13.6

Red House Free Standing

12.5

Matina

12.5

Giant Belgium

11.5

Dixie Golden Giant

11.0

Bear Creek

10.7

German Queen

10.3

Florida 47

10.1

Marmande VFA

9.3

Brandywine

9.1

Livingston's Stone

8.9

Kentucky Beefsteak

8.8

Black

8.6

Flora-Dade

7.6

Watermelon Beefsteak

7.5

Martian Giant

7.3

Japanese Black Trifele

6.2

Santiam

4.6

FLA 8735

1.9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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