Ahh, cilantro. Most of us love it, some of us—this author included!—hate it with a passion. Spend a few minutes on the Rachael Ray Every Day Facebook page and you'll probably see some version of this comment: "Yum, but no cilantro, please." In fact, an estimated 4-14% of the population can't stand it. But guess what? Turns out it's not our fault!
An new video from PBS Digital Studios and the American Chemical Society explores the science behind this polarizing herb. But first, let's back up a bit: Cilantro is grown in warmer climates and is very common in Mexican cuisine. Its less controversial family members include parsley and celery.
So, why do some people hate cilantro so much? It all leads back to a little something called DNA.
According to the video, some scientists believe that cilantro-phobes out there might have a genetic mutation that makes them perceive cilantro as having a soapy or dirt-like flavor. They might even think it smells like bugs—yuck. Cilantro fans, on the other hand, perceive it as having a pleasantly earthy or lemony aroma.
This genetic "defect" is found in Chromosome 11, a.k.a. the chromosome directly correlated with sense of smell. The video below gets into all the scientific details:
So, the next time your friend picks off those little leaves from their nachos, resist the urge to get all judge-y! It might just be the way they're genetically programmed.
Check out these Mexican-inspired recipes—sans cilantro (hooray!)