Coriander: The Marmite of Herbs

Coriander: The Marmite of Herbs

Coriander (or Cilantro to north, south and central Americans): you either love it or you hate it. Have you witnessed the reactions of those who hate it and wondered what witchiness their brains are doing to their tongues? Next time you do, ask them if it tastes like soapy poo. Yes, poo.

Do you have a friend like Maria who, despite being knee-high to a grasshopper, will run and pole vault a 25 storey tower block to get away from the innocuous-looking herb, fly-kicking anyone who gets in her way? Andy Brunning has researched this strange foodie-phenomenon and shared the reason with the world. Apparently, it’s you another thing to blame your parents for: it’s all down to your pesky genes again, honey.

In his book, Why Does Asparagus Make Your Wee Smell And 57 other curious food and drink question (Orion Books 2015),  Andy explains that the cause of the problem could come from the chemical composition of the leaves. Science boffs have figured out that the leaves contain 40 different organic compounds, 82 per cent of those are aldehydes while 17 per cent are alcohol. Don’t fall asleep, this is where is gets interesting!

The aldehydes are mainly those with 9–10 carbon atoms, and it is these that are largely responsible for the aroma of coriander leaves – as well as its perceived soapy taste for some people. They are the same aldehydes found in soaps, creams and body lotions, oh and the same as the poo of the shield bug! Yuk!

So coriander tastes like soapy poo to some people (and probably to you now, too).

But don’t worry, your coriander-munching pleasure has not just been ruined forever. Remember we said it was a genetic thing? Well… “scientists have highlighted a specific gene that codes for a receptor that is highly sensitive to the flavour of aldehydes. Several other genes have also been linked, however, so it seems likely that more than one could be responsible.”

It is possible for people to grow to like the taste of coriander.

So, essentially, if your partner claims they don’t like coriander, trick -(accidentally, of course) them enough times until they do! Problem solved!

photo credit: gizmodo

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