Plant Answers  >  Tomato, Tasti-Lee™ Hybrid -- Bred for vine-ripe harvest and superb flavor.

Tomato, Tasti-Lee™ Hybrid -- Bred for vine-ripe harvest and superb flavor.


Tasti-Lee Hybrid Tomato Tasti Lee™ is a breakthrough because of the artful balance of sweetness and acidity, true tomato flavor and rich red color. Here's your all-star tomato, the 6-9 oz. fruits ready to rev up sandwiches, salads, sauces and salads. Loaded with health-giving lycopene-up to 40% more than other varieties. Determinate.

Get A Up-Close Look At The Tasti-Lee Tomato
By: Frank Giles

If you’ve been in the produce section of Publix lately, you might have seen a bright-red tomato brought to the retail chain through the direct work at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm. The tomato, the Tasti-Lee, was developed by Jay Scott at the center and is meant to provide that “homegrown” taste consumers long for.

The variety took about 10 years to develop. “I always have been looking for better flavor in our overall breeding program,” says Scott. “In 1998, I began to put more emphasis on understanding flavor. Both parents of Tasti-Lee had good flavor under conditions not conducive to flavor, so that is why I made the cross. I was looking for a good flavored hybrid. Liz Baldwin at USDA and I got funding from the Florida Tomato Committee to improve flavor in varieties. So I would say, in the case of the Tasti-Lee, we were going for flavor first, but I also liked the color, firmness, and marketable fruit production.”

Scott says the Tasti-Lee is a good example of developing a variety that has consumer appeal and pays off for the growers that are planting them. “I certainly hope this a good example of the public/private relationship of UF/IFAS working to provide a variety for growers that consumers are willing to pay a premium for,” he says. “Right now, the growers are getting high premiums for the Tasti-Lee that is even good for vine-ripe prices. Growers can make money and get a field-grown tomato back into the grocery store where we have lost market share to greenhouse tomatoes in the last decade.

“I don’t know of another way for our growers to really get volume back into the supermarkets. I hope everyone stays committed to quality. “The positive reaction from the consumer has been overwhelming,” says Styers. “We get calls and eMails every day, but the sentiment we often hear is, ‘these tomatoes taste as good as the ones my grandmother or grandfather grew in the garden.’ It’s very fulfilling to get these reactions and to know you were a part of bringing a little happiness into someone’s life.”

Finding the right grower partners also has helped the early success of this new commercial variety. “In the early days of developing a production and marketing strategy for Tasti-Lee, we had some difficulties in identifying the right growers,” says Styers. “Many growers were simply not convinced that we could produce this tomato without harvesting at mature green and gassing. There were a lot of what ifs. What if we have four inches of rain the day before harvest or what if we have to hold these tomatoes for a few extra days, or what if they’re not all extra large, etc.?

“So, we gravitated toward innovative growers who had vine ripe experience and their reaction has been very favorable. The growers appreciate the high pack outs and the flexibility they have with the added firmness and shelflife Tasti-Lee offers. But more importantly, these growers appreciate the premium price they get back for their product.”

Styers adds that Tasti-Lee marks a trend in seed development. “Consumers are focusing more than ever on not only where and how their food is grown, but also on flavor and health,” he says. “As a seed company, our breeding focus goes beyond yield and disease resistance to include, in equal effort, flavor and health components in many of the vegetable species we breed.”

For more information on Tasti-Lee, see:
http://research.ufl.edu/publications/exploremagazine/summer-2012/tasty-tomatoes.html
 


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