With beautiful images of pristine Japanese countryside, this clip explains why real wasabi is hard to find.
Great Big Story, a video network dedicated to “the untold, overlooked & flat-out amazing”, recently teamed up with All Nippon Airways to create a short clip exploring the fine art of wasabi cultivation. Called “The Wasabi You Eat Probably Isn’t Wasabi”, the clip is filmed in the beautiful countryside of Hotaka, in Nagano Prefecture, where workers at the Daio Wasabi Farm explain the intricate requirements involved in cultivating what’s been dubbed the “hardest plant to grow”. It’s this difficulty in cultivation that’s led to wasabi being substituted for horseradish with green food colouring overseas, which means many people end up missing out on the true flavour of the rare and unique plant.
So do you think you’ve ever had real wasabi? Unless you’re in Japan, where you can buy the Wasabia Japonica plant, which requires grinding on a shark-skin grater to release its flavour, chances are you’ve been eating horseradish coloured to look like wasabi.
Given the plant’s requirements for growth, which include 13-18 degree Celsius (55 – 64 degree Fahrenheit) spring water, a particular amount of shade and sunlight, and a year-and-a-half in the soil, wasabi can be incredibly expensive to buy.
Due to its high cost, it’s rare to find real wasabi plants outside Japan. Once you’ve tasted the real thing, however, you’ll know that it’s not just spicy; it has a complex, sweet flavour as well.
As the plant is so rare overseas, real wasabi is one of those uniquely Japanese experiences you should definitely try during a visit to the country. With a number of wasabi farms welcoming visitors with unusual treats like wasabi ice cream, noodles, and juice, a trip to a local producer is always a fun and eye-opening experience!
Daio Wasabi Farm/大王わさび農場
Address: Nagano-ken, Azumino-shi, Hotaka, 3640
Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 5:20 p.m. (last entry 4:30 p.m.)