It’s no secret that coriander is damn divisive. Love it, or hate it, you’re bound to have a strong opinion about whether or not it’s perfectly acceptable to pepper your plate with it.
And for years, we’ve merely speculated about why the leafy green herb causes so many to turn up their noses. But now, we finally have a definitive answer: it’s hard-wired into our genes.
“We have smell receptors in our nose that are responsible for identifying volatile compounds in the atmosphere, including volatile compounds released from potential foods,” explains Professor Russell Keast, a specialist in sensory and food science at Deakin University.
“Sense of smell is highly variable between people, so what I experience may not be what you experience, and this can be due to quantity, type and natural variations with smell receptors.”
“It’s these receptors that determine what we taste when we eat coriander,” Keast continues. “Depending on your smell receptors, you may experience a soap-like flavour, rather than the herby flavour others experience.”
Your hatred for the herb could also have been determined by your exposure to it during childhood.
“This is common to different cultures, or flavour principles of a region,” Keast adds. “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.”
The bad news? If you’re not already a fan, you’re unlikely to come around to the taste.
“If somebody has the genetic receptor variant and is experiencing high levels of bitterness, having repeated exposure to that food isn’t necessarily going to teach the likening of that food,” Keast concludes.