A new study seeking to better understand why some people have such a strong aversion to cilantro has identified two genetic variants linked to perception of the herb, the most common of which is a gene involved in sensing smells.
Nature reports that a genetic survey of nearly 30,000 people, led by Nicholas Eriksson at the consumer genetics firm 23andMe, asked participants whether or not cilantro tasted like soap and whether or not they liked it. The strongest-linked variant is traced to a cluster of olfactory-receptor genes that influence smell. One of those genes is OR6A2, which is very sensitive to the aldehyde chemicals that give cilantro its distinctive flavor.
Eriksson says that nearly half of all Europeans have two copies of this variant, and of those people, 15 percent reported a soapy taste. In contrast, 13 percent of Europeans had no copies, and 11.5 percent of this group said cilantro tasted like soap.
Speaking to NPR blog The Salt, Erikkson admitted that the genes don't tell the full story of cilantro aversion, saying "it didn't make a huge a difference in cilantro preference from person to person." The findings, he says, suggest that dislike of cilantro is only in part determined by genetics. Moreover, it's not something set in stone:
"It isn't like your height, that you're stuck with. People can change it," he says.
Another study examining cilantro aversion was also published last week in the journal Chemical Sciences, which compiled responses from 527 twins as to whether they thought fresh, chopped cilantro tastes and smells good. The scientists in that study found that three genes influence a person's perception of cilantro. Two were linked with tasting bitter foods and one with pungent flavors, like wasabi.
Nature offers cilantro pesto as a potential solution to cilantro haters wishing to change their preferences, citing a suggestion from food science writer Harold McGee in a 2010 article for the New York Times:
A Japanese study ... suggested that crushing the leaves will give leaf enzymes the chance to gradually convert the aldehydes into other substances with no aroma.
If you count yourself among the scores of people who hate cilantro -- and there truly are tons of them -- we suggest perusing through some of HuffPost's customizable pesto recipes, taking care to substitute cilantro where necessary. Let us know how it goes!
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Cilantro is probably the most high-profile polarizing food. The 2010 Harold McGee article, "<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/14/dining/14curious.html" target="_hplink">Cilantro Haters, It's Not Your Fault</a>" explains the conundrum well -- there's a reason for that "soapy" taste, apparently. Though some can't imagine their guacamole or Thai vegetable curry without the herb, others find it a complete meal-ruiner. Let us know where you stand by voting on the right. <em>Photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/dasqfamily/2648343226/sizes/z/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">Flickr user: QFamily</a></em>
Celery, along with carrots and onions, are the central ingredients in a mirepoix -- a flavor base for soups, stocks, sauces and more. But the green itself doesn't always get much love. When not cooked correctly, its crunch can disrupt the texture of a meal. Although dieters might swear by it, we don't actually believe that anyone can love this "<a href="http://www.theskintfoodie.com/1/post/2012/01/celery-a-malign-and-spiteful-vegetable.html" target="_hplink">malign and spiteful</a>" vegetable. <em>Photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jmrosenfeld/3155153457/sizes/z/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">Flickr user: JMR_Photography</a></em>
This divide often occurs at a young age -- the kids that can munch on strands and strands of Twizzlers and the kids that would rather have a chocolate bar. The licorice love/hate division continues into adulthood as ingredients like anise and fennel are incorporated into dishes. Soups, salads, desserts and cocktails can be ruined -- or elevated, depending where you fall on the licorice spectrum -- thanks to the addition of anise, fennel or licorice. <em>Photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ungard/5594026014/sizes/z/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">Flickr user: ungard</a></em>
Red peppers are smooth sailing for most eaters, but green peppers are another thing entirely. In fact, although we know plenty of people who don't mind green peppers, we can't really think of anyone that particularly loves them. While red and yellow peppers offer some sweetness, and can add a layer of complexity to certain dishes, green peppers often end up mucking them up. Sorry, we know we're supposed to present both the pro and cons of the foods, but we're finding it hard to see much of a pro with this one. It is by far the least loved. After all, chef <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/06/dining/06banned.html" target="_hplink">Dan Barber won't allow</a> green pepper into his restaurants. <em>Photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuffedpeppers/5572058462/" target="_hplink">Flickr user: Sharon Hunter</a></em>
Yes, the photo above is super adorable, but the visual appeal doesn't actually translate into crave-worthy fare. Marzipan is made from almond paste and sugar, resulting in a very saccharine taste. While dessert lovers might crave the uber-sweetness, fans that veer more toward savory items are likely to steer clear. Although marzipan is pliable and relatively easy to mold, sometimes it looks better than it tastes. <em>Photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/dantaylor/495918555/sizes/z/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">Flickr user: dan taylor</a></em>
Mayonnaise is a staple ingredient in many sandwiches and casseroles, for better or worse. Its creamy, slippery texture can provide a much needed relief from dryness -- like in the case of a club sandwich -- or it can just make everything soggy. The game changes, however, when the mayo is homemade. Mayo made from scratch causes far less groans than that jar of Hellman's. That is, if you can get it to emulsify correctly. <em>Photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/notahipster/4059871654/sizes/z/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">Flickr user: little blue hen</a></em>
While Francophiles may espouse the goodness of a cheese with a healthy degree of mold inside, others may balk based on the look alone. The trick is to start on the mild end of the spectrum -- gorgonzola dolce is sweet, creamy and a good starter blue. From there, more intense roqueforts become slowly easier on the palate. Still a bad wine or food pairing with blue cheese can turn people off from the whole genre forever. In other words, pay attention to the other foods you serve along with blue cheese. <em>Photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/60255232@N00/4501818288/sizes/z/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">Flickr user: A writer afoot</a></em>
If you haven't spent time in England or Australia recently, you might not understand why there is so much hullabaloo regarding the yeast extract spreads Marmite and Vegemite. The taste is very umami-rich and extremely savory -- it's best to use a thin layer. Even though many residents of the United States find these spreads rather revolting, there are so many die-hard fans from across the pond, it is probably better to just agree to disagree. <em>Photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jbennett/9205357/sizes/z/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">Flickr user: Los Cardinalos</a></em>
Now's here's a real dessert ruiner for some. Coconut is always the least popular flavor in a box of chocolate truffles. And although some love coconut shards as a topping for ice cream sundaes, we have a feeling most would abstain. However, this new coconut water craze has put the fruit in an entirely new light. Apparently, many people are willing to sacrifice taste in favor of supposed health benefits. <em>Photo by Flickr user: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/35832540@N03/3330701660/sizes/z/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">SingChan</a></em>
Liver is often associated with a bitter taste -- one that isn't actually reality if the liver is prepared well. This is definitely a dense and savory food, but many chicken, duck or rabbit livers actually take on a slightly sweet taste, especially when made into a pate. It is all about the preparation here -- and given the prevalence of liver on so many wine bar menus, it has for sure come back in favor. <em>Photo by Flickr user: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/preppybyday/4663433408/sizes/z/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">TheCulinaryGeek</a></em>