Tuesday, March 03, 2009

I Hate Cilantro/Coriander!

 
I'm one of those people who hate the taste of coriander (called cilantro in most of North America). It's mostly Chinese parsley (Coriandrum sativum L.) but there are similar American plants that taste just as bad. Coriander/cilantro completely ruins any food that it touches.

From time to time I encounter others with the same reaction. I was told that about 5% of the population doesn't like the taste. As a general rule, they seem to be far more intelligent than cilantro lovers, but there are exceptions. :-)

Today I discovered that we're not alone. There's an entire website devoted to eliminating coriander/cilantro from human food [IHateCilantro.com].

Supporting the Fight Against Cilantro!

Cilantro. The most offensive food known to man.

Welcome! You are visiting the web site of a growing community of cilantro haters. We are, however, rational people. In fact, we are the most rational people on earth. No normally functioning human being would ever in a lifetime consider cilantro edible.

It's the reason you are here. Please browse the site in support of your anti-cilantro confederates and help spread the word any way you can:
I wonder if hating cilantro is genetic? Is there an allele that affects a particular taste receptor? If so, I wonder about the adaptive significance of the hate cilantro allele. There must be one .....


[Hat Tip: Josh Rosenau]

45 comments :

  1. Nothing like fresh chopped coriander tossed with chilli peppers, linguini garlic and olive oil. I absolutely love the stuff, and it's one of those things I miss about India - fresh coriander, curry leaves, mint, parsley, celery, leeks, and broccoli! Heaven!

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  2. Cilantro is one of the greatest plants ever to evolve, and we should thank the FSM that he saw fit to let us co-exist on the earth with this most holy of plants. Mexican food would not be Mexican food without cilantro. Guacamole would not be guacamole...you get the point. I grow the stuff hydroponically because me local market does not keep it fresh enough. I am considering starting a research project to study the biosynthesis of its characteristic volatile components, which consist mainly of volatile lipid cleavage products along with a mixture of monoterpenes. Anyone who does not absolutely love this plant is obviously senile, has no olfactory sense, hates children, votes conservative, and probably kicks puppies. I yearn for a world of obligatory cilantro consumption. Maybe in a few generations we can breed out those sad individuals without the necessary alleles for appreciating this magic vegetable. Larry, I normally agree with 90+% of what you say and write, but sadly it seems the romance is over.

    Cilantro rules!!!

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  3. I have read that some people (the famed 5% you refer to, perhaps) have a genetic twist that makes coriander taste like soap or something akin to that.

    Wikipedia says:
    Some people perceive an unpleasant "soapy" taste or a rank smell and avoid eating the leaves. Popular belief that this is genetically determined may arise from the known genetic variation in taste perception of the synthetic chemical phenylthiocarbamide; however, no specific link has yet been established between cilantro and a bitter taste perception gene.[3]


    So take that for what it's worth. I loves me some cilantro.

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  4. I used to be fine with cilantro until a time when we accidentally added a quantity of freshly picked to a recipe which called for dried. The flavor was so overpowering that it completely turned me off the taste, and now I can detect microscopic amounts in foods.

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  5. I'm with you. I hate cilantro. Why anyone would voluntarily eat something that tastes like that and gives you that feeling in your mouth is beyond me.

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  6. Steak tacos on corn tortillas with onion and cilantro are the most sublime form of food.

    I adore cilantro but I learned a hard lesson when I left a big pile of it in the fridge. The fridge and everything in it smelled pretty evil for days afterwards. A little goes a long, long way.

    I've always wondered about celery. My friend says it has absolutely no taste at all, I say it tastes sharp like black pepper and I can't even bear the smell of it. Another genetic thing or am I just insane?

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  7. I wonder if hating cilantro is genetic? If so, I wonder about the adaptive significance of the hate cilantro allele. There must be one .....

    I am willing to bet that it is genetic. The adaptive significance is pretty obvious. It carries severe fitness penalty: no one wants a mate who can't eat coriander. :-) Clearly, this allele is on its way to extinction.

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  8. I really dislike cilantro leaves, but coriander seeds are great. The fresh leaves and stems just taste like soap to me, not appealing at all, but I love some ground coriander seed in my chili.

    Way back in my high school biology class one day they passed around a few strips of paper impregnated with compounds that only people with certain genes could taste. I remember one of them was BHT, the food preservative. I was the only one in my class of ~20 who could taste all of them (though I think most people could taste at least one of them). They all tasted really awful.

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  9. Fresh Coriander is an abomination - it tastes awful. Here in South Africa it is also called Dhaniya.

    However 10-15 dried coriander seeds, or some ground coriander seeds in a curry just adds to the flavour.

    Go figure.

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  10. I've often wondered about any possible genetics involved in this big difference in the responses people have to Cilantro. Reminded of this by your post, I poked around more and found the following:

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=98695984

    I've emailed some folks and if I get any response, I'll post the information :)

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  11. I've always hated coriander leaves; I hated the taste before I even knew what it was. It's not just not liking the flavour either, it makes me feel a bit of that visceral 'poison' response you get when you try to eat something that made you sick once. I don't remember ever getting ill after eating coriander though, I've hated it since the first taste. But like the others, I do like the seeds.

    It's in a lot of food I like, though (especially Thai food), so I've managed to get used to it. Now I still don't actually like it but I can eat it if I have to.

    I think the genetic theory is plausible, because my dad says he felt the same way about it.

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  12. Love coriander, hate brussel sprouts.

    I have read that people hate brussel sprouts because they can taste particular sulphur containing molecules - the sprouts taste bitter - whereas other people (who like sprouts) cannot detect the taste.

    I wonder if coriander like/dislike has a similar basis?

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  13. I can't stand it either. I substitute leafy Italian parsley for cilantro. There may be something to the genetic hypothesis. I cringe when I think of it.

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  14. Cilantro has a very strange, metallic taste to me (reminds me of the taste I'd get in my mouth when I used to help my dad grind metal). Thus I absolutely hate it and avoid it whenever possible. I do like coriander seed though...

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  15. I've never even heard of cilantro

    but

    Coriander is one of the greatest plants ever to evolve, and we should thank the FSM that he saw fit to let us co-exist on the earth with this most holy of plants. Bengali food would not be Bengali food without coriander...

    I try to grow the stuff myself because my local market does not keep it fresh enough. Anyone who does not absolutely love this plant is obviously senile, has no olfactory sense, hates children, votes conservative, and probably kicks puppies. I yearn for a world of obligatory coriander consumption. Maybe in a few generations we can breed out those sad individuals without the necessary alleles for appreciating this magic vegetable. Larry, I normally agree with 90+% of what you say and write, but sadly it seems the romance is over.

    Michael Phillips rules!

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  16. I've eaten coriander raw by the handfuls, quite literally. I don't understand why the nutjob contingent is making such a fuss about it-- I mean, you all have the option of not eating.

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  17. Hate hate hate Cilantro! Makes my skin crawl to think of eating it.

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  18. But how can you live without cilantro? A salad is not a salad without cilantro! A curry is not a curry without cilantro! Armies cannot march without cilantro! Navies cannot sail without cilantro! Rockets cannot be launched without cilantro!

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  19. We make a killer beef salad with a dressing made by blending full coriander plants, roots and all, with fish sauce, lime juice, mint, pepper, chili and sweet basil.

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  20. I find the taste of fresh coriander leaves absolutely delicious; I can just pick them and eat them, like that. But I can understand that there are people who don't like it.

    The first times I discovered it was in Chinese soups. I found the taste a bit strange (and, yes, soap came to mind) but didn't know where it came from. Then I liked it more and more. So it may be an acquired taste.

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  21. Does anyone out there feel the same about other foods or spices? I have an intense hatred of bell peppers (especially green peppers). I find they taste like what a cold ashtray smells like.

    Regarding the genetics of this, this has been my theory since I saw the Phenylthiocarbamide tasters/ non tasters demonstration in high-school. Who knows what other taste alleles are floating around out there.

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  22. I'm no fan either. In "My Childhood",Maxim Gorky likens coriander to the smell of crushed bedbugs.While I don't know that that's true it sounds right.

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  23. I'm with DiscoveredJoys: like coriander/cilantro, can't stand brussels sprouts. Can't stand cauliflower either, but I like broccoli. Go figure.

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  24. Thanks, Rana. Obviously, I should investigate Bengali food. For the curious, the compound responsible for the sublime aroma of cilantro is E-2-decenal. Those who speak poorly of the God-weed should be dunked in vats of it.

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  25. Interesting. I find the smell of mustard sickening.

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  26. Love cilantro.
    Love Brussels sprouts.
    Can't stand celery.

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  27. I'm a cilantro hater too. I will have to check out the site. Finally, *sniffle, sob* people who understand!

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  28. I can't stand cilantro, and I like to think it is a sign of a discriminating palate.

    It would be interesting to pin down what the cause is: do us haters have (yet another) pseudo gene version of a odor receptor, or do we have an altered version of a functional one. (I'd guessing the former).

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  29. Gee, Larry, if I'd known that yesterday at lunch, I'd have had them pile it high on my burger! I love the stuff.

    :) :)

    Deb

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  30. Delicious.

    And the secret behind Hoeegarden beer.

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  31. I was just passing and saw this interesting thread. The first time I tasted cilantro, I hated it. I've seen many others with the same reaction. But, the circumstances I was in dictated that I occasionally had to eat it -- you have to accommodate partners to some extent.

    Consequently, I learned to like it, and long after that, I still use it in some recipes.

    Cilantro, rather like whisky, may be an acquired taste, initially offensive, but after the right introduction, it grows on you.

    I don't know whether the initial revulsion is genetic, it may be so. But if it is, it is not one that cannot be overcome.

    lesz

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  32. I'm not a terrible fan of the leaves, but love the seeds in my bread (kind of Southern-Tyrolean custom, with fennel seeds as well). My dad is approximately the same; a bit more "intolerant" towards the leaves than I, but o.k. with the seeds.

    And since we're talking about strange victual dislikes: I get blisters from fresh carrots (usually). Cooked ones are fine, though. Go figure!

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  33. I don't like cilantro or cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cabbage, brussels, etc.). They both taste very bitter to me. Once as a child, when forced to eat cole slaw, I threw it up immediately because of the strong gag reflex the taste induces (my parents never tried that again...).

    See the paper and a story at Science Daily. The evolutionary argument is a bit just-so, but it is tenable. I wrote a Faculty of 1000 comment on the paper, too (probably not OA).

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  34. My wife is also a cilantro-hater -- says it has a bitter metallic taste. To me, it's just another sort of parsley -- slightly bitter when eaten by itself, but pretty much undetectable when combined with other ingredients. Of course, she also has a much better sense of smell than I do, and I suspect there's genetic determinant to what sort of taste/smell receptors an individual has. So she can probably detect some molecule to which I am oblivious.

    But I wouldn't presume to argue that there's an adaptive explanation for that; not on this blog ;-).

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  35. You know, when I first read this article I didn't even know if I had ever eaten coriander. When I ate congee at a Chinese restaurant this weekend, they used some parsley-like vegetable as a garnish on top, that I've seen before and always assumed was parsley. This time, however, I remembered this article mentioning coriander was Chinese parsley. I saved some - it's definitely coriander.

    I find it quite mild-tasting, there's definitely no soapy or metallic taste for me. I think this must be genetic, I can't even begin to imagine a soapy, metallic, or any other sort of objectionable taste.

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  36. hahahahahahahahahah I agree with you! Your blog is hilarious and I cannot wait to prove to my wife that I am not the only person on the face of the earth that thinks there is something wrong with the salsa at Amigo's...

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  37. Personally, I also detest the taste of fresh coriander. I find it completely dominates my taste buds with such a sharp, astringent flavour that I cannot taste the dish. The taste can also linger in my mouth till the next day.

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  38. Many times me and my wife have travelled through asia and felt the horrible taste of coriander, we love almost everything else in Asian food, this year we are again on our hollidays in Asia, yesterday night we got a dish full of coriander and we were talking about how can anyone like the taste of coriander, I told to my wife, "let me google it, I'm sure there are lots of people who hate as we do" and voila!! I googled "I hate coriander" and I came in your page!! so add two more to the cilantro/coriander haters club :-)

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  39. Interesting reading . . .
    I am NOT a fussy eater, and experiment readily, although I have some favourite foods, like most of us. But these I hate and I will not eat dishes containing them, as I can detect very small quatities: cilantro and coriander, aniseed (anise), capers, fennel, cumin, celery, caraway, tarragon, cardamom. Not too crazy about brussels sprouts either. If any one knows what the cause is, I'd like to know. As far as I know I am the only one in my close family with this problem (?). My two sons did not inherit it.

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  40. It's not the taste that gets me. It's the after-affects - stomach cramping & diarrhea! And I'm guessing it is somewhat genetic as it has the same affect on 3 out of my 4 children. Unfortunately, cilantro is added to just about everything anymore. Foods should have to have a warning like they do for nuts and milk! Warning - contains cilantro and/or coriander!

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  41. I love spicey food and a good curry but why spoil such lovely flavours with coriander which takes over everything and is disgusting if someone cooked me dinner with it in i could not eat it i cannot stand it no matter who they were even a top chef in a top class restaurant, i watch all of the cookery programs and as the years of gone on and i am noticing that chefs are using it more and more and i dont get it because food does not need it they make a tasty dish then throw a big handful of coriander on top i have to turn it over,i love chilli and lime they are my favourite but everyone wants to put coriander with them i dont get it!!!!

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  43. I absolutely hate cilantro in anything. It is nasty and vile and bitter. I make salsa without it and it is good. If salsa has cilantro, it is ruined.

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