This is the time of year when tomato seedlings are plucked from their comfortable windowsills and tucked neatly into the fresh topsoil of their summer homes. It can be difficult, especially here in the northeast, where near-freezing temperatures know no seasonal bounds, and weeks of rain regularly dampen garden beds beyond belief. But as long as the tomatoes survive this difficult aldolescence, they are fine, right? Well, not totally. Yes, they will still flower and produce fruit, but the tomato may not have that summer tomato taste you are looking for.
Harry Klee, a researcher at the University of Florida, is looking into the science behind a tomato's taste. Why are some sweet and others tart? Why are some mealy? And why do even the most labor intensive heirlooms occasionally produce only one tomato? It turns out that too much water, not enough UV light, and a low organic matter content in the soil, can all impact the quantity and more important, the quality, of the fruit. Klee says that their are over 3000 "aroma volatiles" found in soil that contribute to taste, and that if even one is missing, the tomato flavor can seem flat.
Fertilizing, not overwatering, and ensuring that the tomatoes are in direct sun are the most surefire ways to ensure a delicious product. For more tips and to find out which tomatoes are best suited to your neck of the woods, check with your local agricultural extension office.
How to Grow the Tastiest Tomato? One Secret's in the Soil from NPR's The Salt