A divine condiment or a soap-flavored diabolical herb? It’s all in our genes. Are you for or against the green spice? Take the poll and make a difference!

The simple question “What do you think of coriander?” raised countless arguments and battles drenched in green juice. Many people like the fresh flavor of the herb, others fail to understand how you could put it in your mouth, claiming adamantly that coriander tastes like soap. 

And they are right.

That is, when they eat coriander they truly feel the taste of soap. But it is also true that coriander lovers do not taste any soapiness in their favourite spice. How is this possible? It all depends on our genes.

Researchers have long suspected that dislike of coriander might be hereditary, since different populations in the world have very different percentages of coriander haters. While in East Asia these constitute one-fifth of the population, in Latin America and the Middle East only 3-7 percent complain about the soapish flavor. A study conducted on twins showed that identical twins, who get the same genetic material from their parents, agree on the taste of coriander more often than do non-identical twins, who share only 50% of their DNA.



Several studies published in recent years have found genetic variations, that is, slightly different versions of the coding sequence of specific genes, in people who sense soapy flavor while tasting coriander. One of the main variations is linked to a gene called OR6A2 that is known to affect our sense of smell, and evidently also has an important role in our perception of flavor. Whoever inherits two copies of this variation from his parents, will not necessarily hate coriander, as this trait also depends on other genes, but will be much more likely to despise the condiment.

One of the problems with these studies is that some people do not sense a soapy taste when they eat coriander but still hate the flavor. It is most probable that a more objective test, rather than the question "Do you love coriander?", is required in order to define perception of the herb, before we know for certain which genes affect this trait. However, even then, we are not likely to obtain a simple and clear-cut answer involving a specific gene or single genes that unequivocally determine our preference. As in many other traits, the perception of coriander will likely prove to be a polygenic trait - one that is influenced by several different genes.