Friday, 26 February 2016

The herb one third of us hate


I love my herb garden and even have a herb salad with breakfast. I usually only grow what I know we will eat and enjoy but now and then I add something new, and I thought coriander might be interesting.

I had never tasted coriander/cilantro, but it was often referred to as Asian parsley and it looks a little like flat parsley. So, thinking it was similar to the parsley I eat daily, I bought coriander seeds.
Three months later nothing had come up so, I bought a punnet of coriander seedlings. I was persistent.
The plants thrived, to my delight, and I looked forward to having them in a salad.

I usually grow lots of parsley but recently we've had trouble with Root Knot Nematode and my parsley turned yellow, as did my few tomatoes and our ginger crop, and failed to thrive. Pulling up the affected plants revealed nasty nodes/lumps on the roots, which do not come off if you rub them. There is an invisible worm eating the root.
Nematodes, or Eel Worms, are colourless, microscopic worm like animals. Most are harmless to plants, some are even beneficial, but the Root Knot Nematode is a plant parasite. Apparently you can fumigate the soil by growing black mustard seed, and digging it in, but it's best to not grow the same crop there again.

But that's enough about miserable nematodes and back to the smelly coriander.

While browsing at our local nursery, for garden plants and lettuce, I noticed they had a special on Asian/Thai coriander, so I bought one. Thai coriander looks nothing like the parsley like common coriander. You would think it was a completely different plant, except for the smell.
The long flat leaves of Thai coriander have spikes along the sides and the nursery staff told me how to trim those off with scissors and to slice it into stews, soups,stir fries and meat dishes. They said it had a stronger flavour than the common coriander. I took my new spikey plant home and it is growing so well moved it into a bigger pot twice. I was aware that the smell from it was a little different, peppery I thought, but things don't always taste the way they smell. Today, after walking around the garden with a visitor, I decided to try some so .... and I added thin slices of half a leaf from the Thai coriander plant to our stir fry for dinner.

Well - talk about a ruined meal! 
My husband said, "This is very tasty". 
I wanted to spit it out.

Hours later the inside of my lips were still burning and I could smell it in the skin of my hands. Horrible.
So, I looked it up.....
.... and it seems that people have a love or hate reaction to coriander - similar to licorice, Brussels sprouts, vegemite, celery or gin .... you either love it or you don't. I am okay with all the above, except licorice, and now coriander. I hate it.
A scientific survey of 30,000 people identified two genetic variants linked to the taste and smell of coriander. Different people may perceive the taste of coriander leaves differently. Some say it has a refreshing, lemony or lime-like flavor, and others have a strong aversion to its taste and smell, characterizing it as soapy or rotten. I think it's just too strong, not bitter but heavy .... in the way licorice is too strong a flavour.

Apparently over 30% of people have the coriander-hating, OR6A3, gene, and it is thought to be inherited - so blame your parents.

Wikki says: 'OR6A2, lies within a cluster of olfactory-receptor genes, and encodes a receptor that is highly sensitive to aldehyde chemicals. Flavor chemists have found that the coriander aroma is created by a half-dozen or so substances, and most of these are aldehydes. Those who dislike the taste are sensitive to the offending unsaturated aldehydes, while simultaneously may also be unable to detect the aromatic chemicals that others find pleasant. Association between its taste and several other genes, including a bitter-taste receptor, have also been found'.
People can react differently to certain smells. Nice to now it's not just me. I will stick to celery, vegemite and gin.

A little where, what, why about the herb. Coriander is native to regions spanning from southern Europe and northern Africa to southwestern Asia. All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the parts most traditionally used in cooking. Coriander is common in South Asian, Southeast Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, Caucasian, Central Asian, Mediterranean, Tex-Mex, Latin American, Brazilian, Portuguese, Chinese and African cuisines.

Thai coriander

Common coriander

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