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Scientists Plan to Genetically Engineer a Spicy Tomato

Scientists want to spice up the tomato.

A recently published study in Trends in Plant Science says tomatoes are an excellent vehicle to produce capsaicinoids, the element that adds heat to peppers. And they’re planning to give it a try.

The lowly tomato, it turns out, has the full suite of genes necessary to pave the way for “hot tomatoes,” though scientists note that it could be a difficult process.

Spicy foods are popular throughout the world. And food manufacturers have been quick to capitalize on that, putting out everything from a spicy Snickers bar to Tabasco whisky to hot chicken wing Oreos. Assuming these experiments come to fruition, the spicy tomato could open up new culinary possibilities.

“It could allow the development of new functional foods appealing to a wide range of consumers,” the authors of the study wrote.

Beyond any foodie perks, there’s a practical reason behind the research. Capsaicinoids are inconsistent in peppers, often fluctuating due to conditions like cultivation methods, environmental factors and viruses. Using tomatoes as a vessel could create an easier way to produce large quantities of capsaicinoids, making them more readily available and perhaps less expensive, ultimately.