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Latest Research: Pigments That Give Tomatoes Color Can Also Affect Their Flavor

Researchers in Japan and US have discovered that pigments in tomatoes not only give color to the fruit, but also affect their flavor.

Shipra Singh
Tomatoes and their color variations
Tomatoes and their color variations

Researchers from the University of Tsukuba, Japan, and the University of Florida, United States have discovered that pigments present in tomatoes don’t just determine their color, they also influence the taste of tomatoes.  

A study published this month states that Japan researchers have created a new technique to quickly measure the pigment profiles of tomatoes and utilize this technique to further research on how pigments influence the aroma and the taste of tomatoes.  

How is the color of tomatoes produced? 

According to scientists, a combination of pigments like cholorphylls and carotenoids play a role in giving tomato its color. Now, as per a new research, these color-producing pigments can also affect the build-up of flavour-related compounds like sugars, which influence the taste, and VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), which influence the aroma.  

Scientists knew that as tomato ripens and changes color from green to red, the quantity of pigments and flavour-related substances present in it change. However, they were unclear about the association of color-producing pigments and flavour, until now.  

Professor Miyako Kusano, who is the lead author of the research study said, “Pigments like carotenoids have no taste, but they are precursors for compounds called apocarotenoid-VOCs (AC-VOCs) which produce the fruity/flora smell of tomatoes and increase the perception of sweetness-characteristics that appeal to consumers.” 

Know how to produce tomatoes with the best flavor.  

How did the team measure pigment and flavour? 

Conventional ways of identification and measurement of pigments were slow; so researchers created a new and simple way to analyze huge numbers of samples in the quickest time possible.  

This new method helped the researchers to measure amounts of cholorphylls and carotenoids in 157 tomato varieties. The team then analyzed flavour of each variety to find an association between pigments and flavor 

Result of study 

Results of the research study revealed that tomatoes having a high amount of cholorphyll showed a high amount of sugar and they were sweeter in taste. The results also showed that carotenoid profiles of tomatoes indicated their appearance and AC-VOC levels.  

Professor Miyako Kusano explains, “The pigment profile of one of the orange-colored varieties called “Dixie Golden Giant” was particularly interesting. It had very high levels of AC-VOCs, but the carotenoid content wasn’t that high. We discovered that the pigment prolycopene was abundant in this variety, which explained the high AC-VOC levels.”  


Carotenoid content of a fruit is affected by environmental factors like light conditions and temperature. It can be possible to find ways to enhance AC-VOC production by analyzing pigment profiles and AC-VOC content in fruits grown in different environments. This can be beneficial for growers and consumers of the fruits.   

(Source of research news: University of Tsukuba) 

Also learn how to grow cherry tomatoes easily at home.  

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