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Steven D. Tanksley
Steven W. Squyres
Barbara A. Baird
Shahin Rafii
Watt W. Webb
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Steven D. Tanksley
Don’t Want To Spoil The Fun Of It

Steven D. Tanksley

How Did We Get These Things We Call Tomatoes?

Research Yimin Xu, Steven Tanksley, and visiting scientist Pasquale TripodiCrops are very recent in the history of humans. Humans were foragers. Only in the last 10,000 years did we start farming, and we had to find something to farm. There were no crops—no corn or tomatoes. What existed were wild plants. These were nothing like crops. For example, what we think of as a tomato is a beefsteak tomato. It looks good on hamburgers and in salads. However, a true tomato is seedlike—little berries that are about the size of the tip of your finger—and they’re still found in the wild in South America.

I am interested in how we went from this natural diversity that’s adapted for birds in the wild, to humans generating a crop through selection or through happenstance that gave rise to agriculture. What was the genetic change that took place causing berrylike tomatoes to evolve into big tomatoes? It was all done before there was any science! Before genetics!


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