March 4, 2014 - Fiona Timmins
Last time, we discovered the real tomato is golden orange in colour. But why is this so important for human health? And where can YOU get the seeds to grow your own?
While many of us have been happily growing our bright red tomatoes, a handful of researchers from different parts of the world have been digging deeper into the differences between red and golden orange tomatoes. The differences seem to lie in the structure of a compound called lycopene - in red tomatoes (and other colours) the structure is linear (a line) and called "all-trans-lycopene" and in some golden orange tomatoes the structure is cis shaped (like a horseshoe) and called "tetra-cis-lycopene".
At Ohio State University in 2007, a team led by Professor Steven Shwartz, set out to find if the lycopene in a golden orange tomato variety called "Tangerine" was better absorbed by the human digestive system than the lycopene in red tomatoes. Volunteers excluded all sources of lycopene and beta carotene from their diet for 13 days prior to the experiment.
The group of 12 volunteers ate a tomato based sauce made with red tomatoes and a tomato based sauce made with Tangerine tomatoes. And the result?
Lycopene circulating in the bloodstream of study participants was two and a half times greater from eating the golden orange tomato meal! That's 250% more disease preventing lycopene than red tomatoes!
You can find more about the research at Ohio University here:
Then a small research trust in New Zealand, The Central Tree Crops Research Trust, decided to use Ohio University's research as a basis for testing other golden orange tomato varieties. The Trust aims to find the best open-pollinated tomato varieties for hunan health especially for prevention of cancer, and has been working on this tomato project for six years now.
The golden orange tomato research in conjunction with New Zealand Plant and Food Research threw up a list of varieties which are highly beneficial for human health - they all have the tetra-cis-lycopene!
You can find the full report on golden orange tomato varieties AND the special list of tomatoes here:
In New Zealand you can buy some of these special tomato seeds from here:
In Australia, seed companies such as The Lost Seed may have one or two of the special varieties. Rangeview Seeds has an entire section in their online shop devoted to orange tomatoes!
This year, in Australia, we found Earl of Edgcomb as seed, and Orange Fleshed Purple Smudge as plants. Both varieties produced well, even in the extreme heat waves Victoria experienced this summer. They didn't need any special care, and we grew them among other red and lemon coloured tomato varieties. In our inhouse taste testing, we found the Earl of Edgcomb to be rich and full flavoured and almost creamy in texture. They look beautiful whichever way you serve them!
At the Central Tree Crops Research Trust the 2013/14 tomato season was devoted to golden orange varieties only, and these tomatoes are being sent off to Plant and Food Research to discover their potential ability to save lives by preventing disease! Watch this space!