That green blob served alongside your California roll? That probably isn't real wasabi. Ninety percent of the wasabi you buy in a restaurant or in the grocery store is actually horseradish that's been dyed green. That's because the authentic stuff requires a lot of work, and if you can't stand the heat, you probably shouldn't be in the business of farming wasabi.
Great Big Story explores the dedication required to grow real deal wasabi in a new video, which explains that the plant takes one year and three months to grow. It requires spring water, the perfect balance of sunlight and shadow, and — if the harvest fails — farmers can't grow anything else on that land for a year and a half.
The video takes a look at Daio Wasabi Farm, in Hotaka, Japan, which is one of the country's largest wasabi farms and produces more than 300,000 plants per year.
Real wasabi is spicy, with a sweet finish, unlike its bright green counterpart, which tends to sear the sinuses and blow out the flavor of fresh fish. Westerners have become so accustomed to the fake stuff that they tend to request larger doses of it. So much so, in fact, that one restaurant in Japan is being accused of "wasabi terror": loading up the sushi of foreign diners with so much wasabi the food is rendered inedible.
• The Wasabi You Eat Probably Isn't Wasabi [GBS]
• Wasabi Terror: Japanese Sushi Restaurant Apologizes for Giving Too Much Wasabi to Foreigners [IBT]
• All Video Interludes [E]