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Today Is International 'I Hate Coriander' Day Or Christmas For Cilantro Haters

I suppose I should get this out of the way before we even start with this topic: I actually like cilantro.

Growing up, I was always a pretty picky eater, so I can't help but find it amusing that something that I can never recall bothering me would turn out to so widely disliked. Of course, everyone has their own food-related likes and dislikes, but how pervasive and intense it seems to be in the case of this one leafy herb filled me with curiosity.

In recent years, however, I've come to understand what it tastes like to those who don't like it. Not only that, but I've gained a lot of insight into why enough people could exist to make International "I Hate Coriander" Day a legitimate phenomenon.

Before we really unpack the controversy behind coriander, we should get the confusing terminologies associated with the plant out of the way.

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For some reason, it's hard to agree on what to name this stuff. As NPR reported, the leaves of the coriander plant is known as cilantro in the United States, while the seeds are more commonly called coriander.

In Europe, however, it's all coriander and for some reason, it's also known as Chinese parsley in some places. So if you hate cilantro and someone offers you Chinese parsley, now you know not to take it.

So now that that's been cleared up, why do some people hate this herb so much?

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Well, while its smell may not be particularly noticeable to someone like me, others find it to give off a pungent odor that might be best described as a noxious soap.

And things don't get any easier if one of cilantro's non-fans actually put it in their mouths.

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That's where the apparent "soapy" character of the herb really kicks in and while I don't taste that myself, it's very easy for me to appreciate that most people wouldn't want to eat soap.

After all, there's a reason parents used to wash out their kids' mouths with it as a punishment.

As for why some people taste soap while others don't, it turns out there could be a genetic influence behind the answer.

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According to Nature, within the olfactory-receptor genes that control sense of smell is one called OR6A2, which is currently the most likely candidate for where this difference in taste takes place.

That gene has a receptor that in certain variants, reacts adversely to aldehyde chemicals.

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Those chemicals happen to have a great influence on the flavor of cilantro and coriander at large. So if those chemicals read as "soapy" to a person with this variant, so too will cilantro.

But while this explains a lot, it may not tell the whole story.

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A team of researchers led by Nicholas Eriksson at 23andMe found that almost half of those with European lineage have two copies of this "soapy" variant and 15% of them report experiencing this soapy taste.

13% of them, however, have no copies of the variant and it's true that of these people, most of them don't report any soapy taste. Still, 11% of them still do.

But whether your genes indicate a likelihood of hating cilantro or not, you're certainly far from alone if you want to celebrate International "I Hate Coriander" Day this year.

h/t: NPR, Nature