At the risk of turning this into the broccoli blog, HuffPo serves up an interesting companion piece to Tuesday’s post. In the comments I remarked that no one is neutral about broccoli. You either love it or you hate it. Well, here come the geneticists to explain why that is:

Broccoli has certainly earned its healthful reputation as a superfood, yet its flavor remains more controversial. But why is it that some people simply can’t stand the taste, while others love it?

The answer might partly come down to genetics, explains John E. Hayes, Ph.D., assistant professor of food science and director of the Sensory Evaluation Center at the Pennsylvania State University. While past explanations have focused on the idea of “supertasters,” he says that’s less applicable to broccoli.

Instead, variations on a gene called TAS2R38 could explain why some people turn their noses up at the green stuff. This gene can affect how people perceive bitterness; a compound called allylglucosinolate is what causes the bitter taste in broccoli. What’s more, the variant you have of this gene could explain overall vegetable consumption patterns, not just broccoli, according to Hayes.



  1. #1 MNb
    July 12, 2013

    “I remarked that no one is neutral about broccoli”
    Falsified. I am. Last time I ate it was many years ago, even if it’s available to me (but expensive). I don’t miss it but don’t dislike it either.
    What I really enjoy though is cauliflower with cheese sauce and a meatball.

  2. #2 JimR
    July 12, 2013

    I like broccoli lightly steamed, but not raw. I don’t like the texture. On the other hand I love raw cauliflower for its peppery taste and the texture. I hate it cooked, even lightly, and definitely w/o cheese sauce.

  3. #3 Loose pearl
    Wash. D. C.
    July 12, 2013

    I would posit that if you haven’t eaten broccoli in years you fall into the hate it category. I would never turn down broccoli if offered.

  4. #4 MNb
    July 12, 2013

    @3: wrong. Nobody has offered me broccoli the last 13 years simply because it’s very expensive where I live.

  5. #5 Sorcha
    July 12, 2013

    Love broccoli. Like cauliflower (esp when lightly steamed and served with cheese). Dislike cabbage. Gag on brussels sprouts.
    Not sure what this says about me.

  6. #6 eNeMeE
    July 12, 2013

    Also neutral about broccoli.

    I eat it when it’s there but I don’t seek it out.

  7. #7 Ça alors!
    July 13, 2013

    I don’t think we can reduce taste to genes. My children have many different phase with what they like or not but surprisingly, broccoli isn’t an issue.
    Let’s face it, broccoli stinks a bit, I would say this is the major reason why some people don’y like it.

  8. #8 Marnie
    July 13, 2013

    I think perhaps this is not a quite accurate assessment. I believe, like cilantro, there are people who have a strong negative reaction to the taste of broccoli. This distaste is linked to a genetic trait and can predict people who will not like the particular food.

    However, that doesn’t mean that people without the trait all love either of those foods. There is still a spectrum of responses that have to do with personal taste and are distinct from this genetic predisposition.

  9. #9 Thanny
    July 13, 2013

    The genes are definitely a factor. It’s not so prominent in broccoli, but brussels sprouts are positively unpalatable due to the extreme bitterness.

    My favorite in the general culinary vicinity is cream cauliflower. It’s just steamed cauliflower smothered in white sauce, which is essentially whole milk heavily thickened with white roux, then seasoned with salt and white pepper.

  10. #10 MNb
    July 13, 2013

    I like Brussels’ sprouts, but only half cooked. When eating them I must feel them crack between my teeth.

  11. #11 Don
    New Mexico
    July 14, 2013

    When I was young, I could and would eat broccoli whenever it was available. Didn’t love it to where I would search it out but never avoided it. Sometime in my late 30s or early 40s I realized it was making me sick with stomach cramps. It took a bit of painful experimenting to prove it in fact was the broccoli, and not something else, but I eventually realized that I could only eat 1 or 2 florets raw and maybe 3 if they were cooked. Any more and I was risking a few hours of discomfort that could border on extreme.

  12. #12 Max
    July 14, 2013

    I’m neutral on statistics.

  13. #14 Jack Bentley
    July 17, 2013

    My broccoli story. As a child, I disliked broccoli, and avoided it whenever possible. Then came marriage, kids etc. To set an example, for over 20 years I ate broccoli whenever it was served. After the children grew up and left, I thought ‘Great. no more broccoli’ Trouble is, after 20 years I believe I have grown to like it. Anyway, I still eat it, setting an example for the grandchildren. Of course, living in an area where the climate is ideal for growing broccoli, I was never going to be able to avoid it anyway.

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