On One Hand

October 20, 2007

I Hate Cilantro

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 1:30 am

The first time I tasted cilantro, I thought I was licking the dust from ground pennies. The flavor was overwhelmingly metalic, and so strong that even in in a few tiny green fragments it ruined the the rice dish I was eating. I’m not a picky eater, and if it weren’t for cilantro, there wouldn’t be a single food I don’t like. But while a majority of people don’t mind cilantro in anything, saying it tastes “lemony” or fresh, I still think it tastes like rusty nails.

Recently I stumbled upon some articles that say a possible human genetic variability gives some people a strong aversion to cilantro; those who have the trait say it tastes like metal or soap, and will find the flavor extremely overpowering even in small amounts. Researchers came across the idea when they realized that most people like cilantro, but some people absolutely hate it, and there is little middle ground. Haters have banded together at I Hate Cilantro.com, where members can fill out polls to decide what foul-smelling substance cilantro tastes like for them.

Remember those experiments from Middle School biology when we tasted a strange substance called PTC? In paper or powder form, students would nibble it in small quantities to see if they had an gene that gave the substance an awful bitter taste, or rather, a gene that gives them functioning taste receptors for phenylthiocarbamide. (Nowadays it’s probably a reaction to a similar chemical called 6-n-propylthiouracil, since PTC has been found to be potentially dangerous and isn’t often used.) Some would be so disgusted by the taste test that they had to spit or immediately rinse their mouths, while others tasted absolutely nothing. It all has to do with whether or not you have a certain enzyme in your saliva.

It isn’t the chemical PTC that gives cilantro its love-it-or-hate-it properties; I didn’t taste anything in the strip of paper in biology class, but I do have the aversion to cilantro. It’s an entirely different chemical or enzyme, but it functions in a similar way.

Cilantro is the herbal name for the leaf of Coriandrum sativum, a plant in the carrot family that looks similar to parsley. The seeds of the plant are called corriander, which look like little round balls and taste like a cross between leamons and dill. They aren’t as metallic as cilantro to those who have the aversion (though I still taste a mild soapy flavor in corriander). All parts of the cilantro/corriander plant are edible, and used in a wide variety of Mexican, Indian and Thai foods.

I’ve adapted to not liking cilantro and can deal with it in small quantities, but I can recognize it in anything, and would almost always prefer it not be there. It’s too bad, because Mexican food has more of it than anything else and Mexican is my favorite.

It’s also too bad because, like many herbs, cilantro has some unique benefits. There is strong evidence that cilantro leaves help remove heavy metals such as mercury from the brain and nerves. It’s ironic that the herb that tastes like metal is the one most effective at cleaning lead, aluminum and other heavy metals from the body.



  1. Hey, that explains why I am terrified of pico de gallo.

    I have always remembered the taste of cilantro as being like soap. This makes it difficult to assimilate into the mesh of a Hispanic household.

    Comment by timberwolves — October 20, 2007 @ 9:23 pm | Reply

  2. I really like cilantro.

    Comment by tempur_tempur — November 4, 2007 @ 12:01 am | Reply

  3. Cilantro

    I am Mexican but I hate cilantro.

    Comment by h_robert_smith — November 22, 2007 @ 12:36 am | Reply

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