We’re One Step Closer to an Attack by Giant Killer Tomatoes

I like tomatoes. Without them, pizza is just flatbread, spaghetti is just noodles and a BLT sandwich would still be pretty good – all it really needs is the B. I’ve always thought that the perfect size for a tomato is the same diameter as a hamburger bun. Anything wider is a waste and anything smaller is a salad. If they made square tomatoes the size of white bread slices, it might move up to make the BLT a BTL. But burger-wide should be the limit. That’s why the news that geneticists are creating mutant giant tomatoes that may someday have more beefsteak than cows is cause for concern. Haven’t they seen the movie?

Before you start composing your comments … yes, I know that tomatoes are botanically a fruit and not a vegetable, that they originated in Mesoamerica and that their size had been manipulated by humans long before Spanish explorers took them back to Europe where the Italians turned them into a deliverable cuisine. That doesn’t make me feel any safer.

According to Nature Genetics, scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, Ohio State University and other schools found two mutant (this sounds bad already) tomato strains that produced lots of large tomatoes. The upper part of their stems, called the meristem, contains stem cells (go figure) that make the flowers that make the seeds. Bigger flowers make bigger tomatoes and beefsteaks, the biggest tomatoes, also have more of them that other strains. By manipulating a gene in the meristem called CLAVATA3 which regulates flower size, bigger fruit is produced.

How big? The free version of the study didn’t say (another bad sign). However, it did point out that this technique could be used to make other giant plants, like corn. Although there hasn’t been a movie about giant killer corn (yet), the thought of giant killer tomatoes getting artillery support from giant killer ears of popcorn is both scary and intriguing (note to self – call my agent).

Am I worried about nothing? How many of you have watched the previews for “Jurassic World” and wondered if it could happen? Can you imagine a Jurassic Garden (I’ve already registered the title)? I’m not taking any chances. From now on, it’s plain B sandwiches for me.