Why Caterpillars Are Responsible for Wasabi

Some of our favorite nose-burning condiments—including wasabi and horseradish—are apparently the product of an eons-long battle between caterpillars and plants. In the latest publication of “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” scientists reveal that a chemical war began 90 million years ago between cabbage caterpillars and plants from the order Brassicales, eventually pushing plants to create intense mustard oil flavors to defend themselves. Fast-forward to today, and those same defensive chemicals are now the key to adding a kick to sushi or prime rib.