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Breeding a Tastier Tomato

ARS researchers have compiled a comprehensive set of rankings for flavor traits for tomatoes to give breeders a better chance to improve the taste of supermarket tomatoes.

ARS researchers have compiled a comprehensive set of rankings for flavor traits for tomatoes to give breeders a better chance to improve the taste of supermarket tomatoes.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

If you want to stir consumers’ passions about produce, just mention tomatoes. There’s no shortage of outrage about those supermarket tomatoes that look as pretty as a picture, but sometimes aren’t much tastier than the carton in which they’re shipped.

It’s not like consumers aren’t willing to give store-bought tomatoes a try; tomatoes are a $2 billion crop in the United States.  But there’s a tug of war between large-scale producers and consumers: The producers need firm tomatoes that can withstand long-distance shipping and long-term storage, while consumers want that garden-fresh taste. Read more »

Making Moves in Maryland

Last week, I met up with Washington Redskins linebacker Darryl Tapp to help kick off Fuel Up to Play 60’s new Make Your Move effort and see how kids at Kenilworth Elementary School in Bowie, Maryland are eating healthier and getting active at school and at home. Fuel up to Play 60 is a partnership between the National Football League (NFL) and the National Dairy Council.

Tapp and I challenged students to “Make Your Move” by having fun and playing hard while fueling their bodies with healthy foods. My favorite part? Hearing a resounding chorus of “YES!” when I asked students if they liked the healthier breakfasts and lunches served in their cafeteria. Read more »

USDA Partners with FoodCorps to Grow Healthy Eaters

FoodCorps service member Dennis Lackey gardening with children in Flint, MI. (Photo credit: Robyn Wardell)

FoodCorps service member Dennis Lackey gardening with children in Flint, MI. (Photo credit: Robyn Wardell)

They are t-shirted and tilling up soil in schools across the country. And this year, thanks to a new partnership, FoodCorps service members have USDA at their side.

FoodCorps is a national service organization that places emerging leaders in schools across the country to teach kids about what healthy food is and where it comes from, build and tend school gardens, and bring high-quality local food into schools participating in the National School Lunch and/or School Breakfast Programs.

USDA is pleased to support the FoodCorps model; their recipe for success includes three main ingredients: Read more »

High Tunnel Gives Kentucky Farmers Advantage with Berries and Other Produce

Chris and Tracy Adams with their daughters Ashley and Abigail.

Chris and Tracy Adams with their daughters Ashley and Abigail.

Similar to the old adage, when Chris Adams married the wife, he married the family – and the family farm. Lucky for him, he loves farming and enjoys working with his in-laws to manage the 4,000-acre farm of soybeans, wheat and corn.  Now it’s his full-time job, working with his brother-in-law to raise fields of commodity crops each year. But recently, Chris and Tracy Adams, and the rest of the family, began experimenting with farming at a much smaller scale.

They built a seasonal high tunnel, a greenhouse-like structure that produces a plentiful supply of strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes and peppers. High tunnels are made of plastic or metal pipe and covered with sheeting, typically made of plastic. Unlike greenhouses, they require no energy to heat, instead relying on natural sunlight to create favorable conditions for growing vegetables and other specialty crops. Read more »