Tomato lovers will be interested in research underway at Iowa State University. Researcher Richard Gladon is working with the chemicals that naturally make tomatoes ripen, to delay the fruit’s progression from the dark green early stage to the deep red ready-to-eat stage. He says they’re working with an experimental chemical called ethylene that blocks the natural ripening hormone in the tomato fruit. The ripening process is broken into six stages and Gladon and a graduate student have been able to force a delay of three to four days during the late stages. He says they’re now trying to stop the process in the early stages. He says the chemical stops the ripening altogether in the early stages, and they’re working on a way to restart the process once it stops. Gladon says they’d like to get things to where they can extend the ripening process for five to 12 days. He says it would be an important breakthrough for tomato growers. He says people could hold onto them for a longer period of time if there are too many tomatoes in the market, or they can hold onto them longer and spread their usage out if there were a glut of tomatoes. Gladon says they’re still focusing on perfecting the delaying technique, so they haven’t done any research yet on how the tomatoes taste. He says they’re hoping to do a good job of controlling the process to keep some of the “vine ripened” taste. Gladon says a relatively small amount of chemicals are needed for the process to stop the ripening, so it shouldn’t add much cost to price of tomatoes. He says the chemical that makes the tomatoes start to ripen is also very inexpensive. Gladon says they should know more about the success of their research by the end of this year.
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