The world is made up of two kinds of people: those who love coriander and those who think it’s the herb of the devil. Now, finally, scientists have revealed why cilantro is so very divisive…
We all know someone who hates coriander with a passion. But, when you love sprinkling that leafy green herb all over your food, it can be incredibly hard to understand why some folks are so adverse to it – especially when you consider the fact that it’s packed to the brim with health benefits.
Thank goodness, then, that scientists have dedicated their time to finding out why coriander is the Marmite of the vegetable drawer.
Professor Russell Keast, who specialises in sensory food science at Deakin University’s School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, says our love/hate relationship with the herb is down to our genetics.
Writing on the university’s website, Keast explains that we have a “whole series of smell receptors that are responsible for air-borne chemicals”.
However, these smell receptors are highly variable between people – and one or two have developed a variant which makes coriander taste awful.
“Depending on your smell receptors, you may experience a soap-like flavour, rather than the herby flavour others experience,” says Keast.
Keast adds that you may have an adverse reaction when you try new things if your culinary experience is limited to certain foods.
“This is common to different cultures, or flavour principles of a region,” he reveals. “For example, many Australians have problems with the intensity of fish sauce, yet South-East Asian populations find it an integral part of their flavouring.”
While Keast goes on to say that “having repeated exposure to [coriander] isn’t necessarily going to teach the likening of that food”, there are ways we can trick ourselves into loving the controversial herb.
“The ability to cook, whether it’s a cooking method or different additions to cooking, may help you overcome an aversion to food,” explains Keast.
“Pairing something you don’t like, such as coriander, with other foods you do like may help you overcome the aversion.”
Is it worth the trouble? Well, coriander is considered a bit of a wonder food, thanks to its ability to ease digestive discomfort, lower blood pressure, ease period pains (yes, really!) and fight food poisoning.
Then again, if it tastes seriously grim to you, why put yourself through the torture of eating it, eh? There are plenty more superfoods out there for you to chomp on.