New type of cherry tomato self-dries while still on the vine
Much as we may like sun-dried tomatoes, they're typically pretreated with sulfur dioxide or salt before the drying process, which may actually be carried out in an oven. By contrast, a new type of cherry tomato has been selectively bred to dry right on the vine.
Developed by food tech company Supree, the tomatoes contain microscopic cracks in their skin.
Once the fruits have grown large (relatively speaking) and ripe, those cracks open far enough to allow moisture to naturally evaporate from within them. As a result, the tomatoes have typically lost about 80% of their original weight by the time they're picked, thus concentrating the flavor, antioxidants and other nutrients in the remaining 20%.
Supree currently harvests the tomatoes at this point in order to have some control over their final moisture content, which varies depending on market requirements. A bit of post-harvest drying may still be performed in order to tweak that content, but it doesn't involve the use of any additives.
Whatever the case, the dried tomatoes are subsequently frozen for shipping and storage. They can reportedly be kept in this state for up to a year without any negative effect on their taste, texture or nutritional value.
Supree is concentrating on selling the tomatoes directly to corporate clients in the food industry for now. The company is also developing a mechanical harvesting system – which should lower the cost of the tomatoes – and may even create other self-drying crops, such as bell peppers.