There's nothing like a fresh tomato, picked right off the vine. The flavor is at its peak, and it's full of important nutrients. Because of regional weather differences, fresh produce often has to be shipped long distances. While tomatoes may be in season in California in January or February, that's still winter in Boston, so many items must be picked before they have fully matured. In the case of tomatoes, this greatly limits their flavor, color and texture, rendering them pretty tasteless and bland by the time they reach the market. If left to grow on the vine, tomatoes produce ethylene which kickstarts the maturation process that, when complete, produces a delicious fresh fruit.
Tomato growers however had to find a variety that could survive long shipping times and they did, however the chemical catalyst set in motion by the ethylene was the price they paid, with this hardier shipping variety that ripens in the store having much less ethylene. Genetic sequencing of the tomato genome, along with taste tests and research has yielded some good information. Growers now know which molecules and genes make the best varieties in terms of taste and shipping stability so hopefully this will mean tastier 'maters in stores. Could this be called better shopping through chemistry?