The food industry is full of dirty little secrets. Earlier this year, in a new book titled Real Food Fake Food, author Larry Olmsted detailed just how rampant the phenomenon of food fraud is in America, with companies purposefully duping consumers into buying substandard or adulterated products. Sadly for lovers of Japanese cuisine, wasabi—the pungent, bright-green condiment known to fiercely clear nasal passages—is no exception.
While it’s been reported in the past that the wasabi doled out in globs at restaurants is usually just horseradish with green food coloring, a new video from CNN’s Great Big Story details just how difficult it is to grow real wasabi plants in Japan.
In an interview with workers at the Daio Wasabi Farm in Hotaka—a century-old facility known internationally for appearing in Akira Kurosawa’s 1990 film Dreams—the clip explains every step of the delicate process. To begin with, it takes one year and three months for a wasabi plant to grow, flourishing only in 55 to 64-degree spring water and perfect sunlight. With such specific requirements, there’s little room for error.
Still, with only 19 employees, Daio Wasabi Farm manages to harvest some 300,000 to 400,000 wasabi plants by hand each year. The complex taste of the plant—and its ability to taste spicy without lingering on the tongue—has led to a huge demand for wasabi of the years, and precious little supply
“It’s labor intensive, time intensive, and in high demand. Prices for wasabi start at around $80 per pound,” the video says. “So that’s why people use a substitute. But the tastes, they aren’t exactly identical.”
[via Great Big Story/YouTube]