Articles: Coriander– citrus or soap?

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum), also known as Chinese Parsley, is an herb whose seeds are commonly used as a spice for baking. In North America, its leaves and stems are known as Cilantro. Nutritionally, the two are opposites: Coriander is high in minerals, especially Manganese and Iron; Cilantro is high in vitamins, especially Vitamin K. They also have distinct flavors: Coriander tastes nutty and spicy with a hint of citrus; Cilantro tastes bright, like fresh citrus.

Curiously, to many people, Cilantro tastes either like metal or soap. (In a study, 21% of East Asians, 17% of Caucasians, 14% of people of African descent, 7% of South Asians, 4% of Hispanics and 3% of Middle Eastern participants disliked Cilantro.) How can this be? Aldehydes and keytones contain the carbonyl group. The former, which are considered more important than the latter, are often called the formyl/ methanoyl group. Aldehydes derive their name from the dehydration of alcohols. (Some common names are methanal/ methane, ethanal/ ethane, benzenecarboxylic acid/ benzenecarbaldehyde; formaldehyde/ formic acid, acetaldehyde/ acetic acid and benzaldehyde/ benzoic acid.) The chemical composition of Cilantro contains 40 different organic compounds: 17% alcohols and 82% aldehydes, which are similar to those commonly in soaps and lotions. Some are among those excreted by stink bugs. No wonder many people dislike the taste!

The other contributing factor to this phenomenon is genetic. Some taste receptors are highly sensitive to the flavor of aldehydes. Crushing the leaves has been said to release enzymes speed the breakdown of the aldehydes. Hopefully, that’s true because among the health benefits, it’s high in antioxidants; has been known to inhibit DNA damage, prevent cancer cell migration, and promote cancer cell death; helps regulate blood sugar and cholesterol; has antimicrobial properties in addition to having a strong antifungal effect against Candida. Many people eat it ease digestive discomfort and flatulence.

Vietnamese Coriander mimics Cilantro flavor

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