Cilantro: Why Is Its Taste So Polarizing?

published Aug 8, 2008
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(Image credit: Africa Studio)

Personally, I love cilantro and can’t get enough of it – I add heaps of it to my guacamole and salsa. It tastes fresh and citrus-like to me. However, supposedly there’s a genetic trait that makes cilantro taste like soap or ground metal shavings to some people.

Most people agree on what most foods taste like. Strawberries taste sweet, lemons are sour, and steak is savory. But a large amount of the population cannot agree on what cilantro (also known as coriander) tastes like.

Julia Child disliked cilantro, and cilantro-haters were passionate enough to create the site, I Hate Cilantro. Get involved in any online discussion about cilantro, and there is a clear division between people who love it and people who think it tastes like soap. What’s surprising is the level of vehemence in the people who dislike cilantro. Many cilantro-haters feel like if a few leaves touch a dish, the meal is ruined. Few foods cause such strongly invested emotions. Who would have thought that a simple green herb would be one of them?

Scientists are currently studying the theory that a genetic trait in some people causes the soapy taste. Among them is Charles J. Wysocki, an olfactory scientist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia.

How about you? Are you in the Love It or Hate It camp?

(Image: Herb Gardening)