Tissue firmness of ripe tomatoes is controlled by cell wall integrity of the fruit tissue and by the enzymatic softening that normally occurs during ripening. This study was conducted to determine the physical characteristics of cells and tissues of mature green (MG) and ripe fruit that might account for differences in firmness between `Rutgers' (normal), `Flora-Dade' (Firm), and two mutant lines called high-pigment (T4065 hp) and dark-green (T4099 dg), both of which possess extra firm fruit. Fruit samples were tested for resistance to a force applied to whole fruit and to sections of the pericarp tissue and by stress-relaxation analysis. Determinations were also made of cell density and cell wall content within the pericarp tissue. Fruit of mutant lines had firmer tissue than either `Rutgers' or `Flora-Dade' at MG or ripe. Whole fruit compression measurements showed that T4099 dg was firmer than T4065 hp or `Rutgers' at MG and firmer than `Flora-Dade' and `Rutgers' when ripe. Whole fruit of `Flora-Dade' were significantly firmer than `Rutgers' at MG and ripe. Firmness measured by compressive strength also showed that mutant lines had firmer pericarp tissue than the wild types at both MG and ripe stages. Stress-relaxation analysis showed that MG fruit of T4099 dg had greater tissue elasticity than `Rutgers' or `Flora-Dade'. Ripe fruit of both mutant lines had more tissue elasticity than wild types. There were no apparent differences among the genotypes due to tissue relaxation. From these analyses, tissue elasticity appears to be a significant parameter in determining tissue firmness in the tomato genotypes used in this study. Firmness and textural quality of ripe tomatoes appeared to be dependent on elasticity of the pericarp tissue and on the level of enzymatic softening during ripening.
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