You’ve probably never tried real wasabi

Surprisingly, the small packet next to the ginger at the local sushi train isn’t actually wasabi.

In most cases, the green paste in a wasabi packet served at a Japanese or sushi restaurant, will be horseradish dyed green. Wasabi is one of the most difficult plants on the planet to grow and as such, is it is unlikely you’ve actually tasted the real thing.

Wasabi is made from the rhizome or stem of the Wasabia japonica plant and is loved for its spicy, yet sweet taste. Unlike chillies, the heat from eating wasabi will only last 10-15 minutes at most, but it will retain its sharpness.

A wasabi plant takes one year and three months to be ready for harvesting. In this time the plant must be exposed to exactly the right amount of sunlight, not too much and not too little. It must also be kept moist, with wasabi farmers cultivating the crops with water at a temperature between 13-18 degrees Celsius. It is a very thirsty plant but doesn’t grow if completely submerged in water, so water will flow over the crops instead.

As the plants are quite sensitive, harvesting them is a very physically intense and draining process, as it’s usually done by hand. The result however, is well worth the wait and hard work.

Due to the difficulty surrounding the growth of wasabi crops, the selling price of wasabi is quite high, ranging from $80-$160 per kilogram. This makes it one of the most lucrative crops when produced in large quantities. While choosing to grow the crop is risky, it can pay off for a successful wasabi farmer.

This video takes you through the largest wasabi farm in Japan, Daio Wasabi Farm that covers 15 hectares of land and has been operational since 1915.