Photo Credit: Isabelle Rozenbaum & Frederic Cirou/PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections/Getty Images
It might look like a humble, unassuming herb, but cilantro is responsible for a deep rift in the culinary community -- its vibrant green leaves, used a ton in Indian, Latin and Chinese cuisines, tend to provoke either ire or unabashed adoration in diners. An informal poll of seven KitchenDaily and Huffington Post Food editors found that four editors love it: ("Everything is better with cilantro!") and three can handle the herb, at least to a point. ("I can tolerate it in moderate doses, but I'll never go out of my way to eat it.")
But whether or not someone digs cilantro has zilch to do with if he or she is a "food person." Julia Child told Larry King in a 2002 interview that she would would never, ever order it. "I would pick it out if I saw it and throw it on the floor."
There's even a website dedicated to cilantro bashing. On the aptly titled IHateCilantro.com, users with names like "Cilantroisnotfood" and "Cilantrash" post personal stories bemoaning the first time they encountered the treacherous herb. Some even publish haikus of questionable literary merit:
cilantro tastes like
my aunt carol's guinea pig's
two week old pellets.
But the haters may not be able to help how they feel. A study found that love or hatred of cilantro is based on genetics. Dr. Charles Wysocki, a a behavioral neuroscientist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, tested identical and fraternal twins at the annual Twinsburg, Ohio, twins festival. Eighty percent of identical twins rated cilantro the same way as their sibling counterpart, whereas only 42 percent of fraternal twins did. (And no matter what a twin's opinion was, it was usually strong one way or the other.)
Those who love cilantro say it imbues every food it touches with a uniquely fresh flavor. And yes, it has its share of Internet fandom to counteract the haters. There are multiple "I Love Cilantro" groups on Facebook, as well as a few stand-alone sites dedicated to worshipping the herb. F*** Yeah Cilantro declares on its homepage, "If you don't love cilantro with all your heart I will fight you. No joke."
If you love cilantro, try out the recipes and tips below. If you don't, we've heard that crushing the leaves (for instance, in a pesto) mellows the herb's intense flavor properties.