Tomatoes didn’t originate in Israel, but the country's agricultural wizards transformed this wild fruit into a flavorful, long-lasting, nutritious, disease-resistant commercial crop enjoyed everywhere as a fresh ingredient and as a source of healthful extracts.
“Regarding tomatoes, Israel is a powerhouse in breeding and development of knowledge,” says noted researcher Ilan Levin, head of the Plant Sciences Institute at the Volcani Center-Agricultural Research Organization.
“Based on the interest of multinational companies in our work, I assume we are among the leading sources of knowledge about tomatoes.”
In 2013 (the latest year for which figures are available), Israel produced 421,000 tons of tomatoes. But more significant than the fruit are Israeli tomato seeds, highly prized across the world for the traits they were painstakingly bred to carry.
“We develop seeds that cost more per ounce than gold, and they depend on local knowledge,” says tomato expert Prof. Haim D. Rabinowitch of the Hebrew University’s Institute of Plant Science and Genetics in Agriculture. “Seeds are knowledge. Everything I know is embedded in the DNA of the seed.”