A number of lines of evidence have converged on the apparent fact that how you feel about Cilantro is a relatively simple genetic system. That Cilantro hatred is inherited genetically and not culturally has long been suspected, but now it is becoming clear enough that this could be a new module in the Science Classroom where kids are forced to taste it and record their level of disgust. It’s all written up here, in Nature.
In hopes of identifying the genetic basis for these traits, researchers led by Nicholas Eriksson at the consumer genetics firm 23andMe, based in Mountain View, California, asked customers whether coriander tasted like soap and whether or not they liked the herb. The researchers identified two common genetic variants linked to people’s “soap” perceptions. A follow-up study in a separate sub-set of customers confirmed the associations.
The strongest-linked variant lies within a cluster of olfactory-receptor genes, which influence sense of smell. One of those genes, OR6A2, encodes a receptor that is highly sensitive to aldehyde chemicals, which contribute to the flavour of coriander. This makes OR6A2 “a compelling candidate gene for the detection of the odours that give it its divisive flavour”, the researchers write.
Personally, I simultaneously think it tastes like soap and I like it.