If you think a dash of cilantro on your guacamole makes it taste like it was sprinkled with sand, you're not alone.
The news: An aversion to cilantro is in your genes, a realization scientists came to after thousands of people started having their DNA analyzed by consumer genetics company 23andMe (when the process was still legal). To approximately 10% of those who got tested, cilantro tastes like soap.
Even master chef Julia Child hates the green, leafy stuff. When Larry King asked her in 2002 what she would do if the herb showed up on her food, she said, "I would pick it out ... and throw it on the floor."
Why you're either a lover or a hater: People who strongly dislike cilantro are born with a genetic variant buried inside a cluster of smell-influencing genes. As with many other foods, the reason you hate (or love) the taste of cilantro is tied up with the reason you abhor (or adore) its smell. Our sensitivity to cilantro's distinctive kick is controlled by a special protein. If we're especially insensitive, we don't taste cilantro at all.
Image Credit: I Hate Cilantro
Cilantrophobia might have evolutionary roots: Before humans transitioned from hunter gatherers to settled industrialists, our senses of taste and smell likely developed in a way that would evoke strong emotions, Northwestern University neuroscientist Jay Gottfried told the New York Times. These strong senses helped us find food when it was scarce, avoid poisonous plants and sense when something had gone bad. The smell of cilantro isn't unique to the herb — it's created by a handful of other substances, most of which contain compounds called aldehydes that are also found in soaps, lotions and insects. Hating cilantro then, might have helped our ancestors survive.
So whether you sprinkle it on tacos or throw it on the floor, cilantro might just be one of the most important ingredients in the kitchen.