Wasabi is the king of herbs and spices and adds a unique flavour to Japanese cooking. Just imaging a dab of fresh wasabi on your sushi, grilled meats and ice cream. The wasabi root is the spicy part of the wasabi pant and is grated on a traditional sharkskin paddle of a stainless steel grater to give the wasabi paste. Wasabi has a unique flavour of spiciness with a zingy herbal taste. Real wasabi is grated and fake wasabi is a mixture of horseradish and mustard with green dye.
However, most wasabi consumed in European sushi restaurants is not fresh wasabi but is made from the rehydrated powdered wasabi. You will know that you are eating fresh wasabi because it has a distinctly clean and herbal taste compared to fake wasabi, which has a stale taste. Real wasabi is much more expensive.
Wasabi is traditionally paired with sushi and the real stuff is dabbed on the fish between the rice. This preparation allows the flavour to diffuse to create a refreshing after-taste and integrate the taste of the fish with the rice. However, you can use wasabi in any dish, such as noodles and grilled steak. The great thing about the wasabi plant while you wait for the rhizome to mature, you can eat the leaves and use them for salads. The fantastic thing about wasabi is that the spicy taste is not like hot pepper, where the spice lingers. Instead, wasabi produces a wave of heat that quickly dissipates and is not unpleasant.
These magnificent wasabi rhizomes can be purchased from the Wasabi Crop Shop and take up to 3 years to grow. On grating, the rhizome gathers up the paste into a pile and rest in the air for 5 minutes. Then apply it to your favourite dish and remember to consume it within 20 minutes to get the optimum flavour.
Traditionally, sushi chefs use sharkskin graters called orishas when grating wasabi to give a smooth paste and creates the best flavour. However, the microscopic teeth on the sharkskin surface are challenging to replicate with the metal or ceramic graters.
At Wasabi Crop, we are growing several varieties of Wasabia japonica but mainly sell the Mazuma. However, we are in the process of growing Daruma, which tends to be milder than Mazuma. Furthermore, Mazuma is much hotter. Also, different varieties of wasabi produce a paste in a range of colours.
Growing wasabi at home
To grow wasabi at home, it is best to buy some wasabi plant starts from the Wasabi Crop Shop. In Japan, you will find wasabi plants growing in the river beds under the tree branches, which act as a shade from the direct sunlight. If you are lucky to visit Japan, take some time to visit the Daio Wasabi Farm. You will be amazed by the large fields at the farm containing vast rows of green wasabi plants where several streams provide fresh water from the Northern Alps. It is worth mentioning that when wasabi is grown semi-aquatically in running water, it is known as Sawa wasabi which means water wasabi. This is because the farmers keep the water temperature at about 13℃ all year round to produce high-value rhizomes. However, the other method to grow wasabi is known as Oka Wasabi which is typically grown in open fields and is therefore subjected to various temperatures.
So, if you are determined to grow your own wasabi plants you have to find ideal conditions suited to the environment. Wasabi plants require a lot of monitoring and a long wait of about two years for harvest day. But, at least the wasabi plants you buy from Wasabi Crop will be hardy and you will have more success.
So, my advice is to use wasabi plant starts and do not think about using seeds which would be impossible to get your hand on real seeds. If you managed to obtain wasabi seeds, I can bet you they are going to be mustard seeds and if they are real wasabi seeds they are challenging to germinate.
Therefore, take your wasabi plant and place it into a 10-litre pot. However, it is best to put a layer of pea shingle in the pot’s bottom and make sure that there are several drainage holes. At Wasabi Crop, we found a good mixture of soil and gravel, including some compost, which is an excellent medium to grow wasabi plant starts. When you have finished potting the plant give it plenty of water – but do not let it sit in puddles of water. Then place the plant pot in a shady part of your garden or take it into the house. During the plant’s growing cycle and while you are waiting for the prized rhizome, you can eat the green heart-shaped leaves and stems. These leaves can be used to make interesting salads and a great addition to your favourite sandwich or even with your beverage. The wasabi leaves can be dried and provide great flavour to a large variety of foods. Also, the stems can be boiled with a mixture of soy sauce and sugar including and small pieces of fresh sushi. Furthermore, the flowers, leaves and stems of the wasabi plant are used in Japanese and European cuisine.
Guidelines in growing wasabi
- Buy wasabi plant starts
- Best to grow wasabi plants in organic-rich soil keep it moist.
- The pH of the soil mixture should be between 6 and 7.
- Place the wasabi plant in a shady area of the garden or near a pond.
- Before planting, soak the roots in cool water and remove any damaged leaves.
- If you are planting wasabi outdoors, try and keep the temperature 10-16 C.
- If planting directly in the garden, then space the out plants about 12 inches apart.
- Wasabi may also be planted in containers, using a 6-inch (15 cm.) pot filled with organic-rich potting mix and then transplanting after a year to a 12-inch (30.5 cm.) pot.
- To increase drainage, put pea-shingle in the bottom of the pot.
- Water wasabi plants frequently.
- Mulch around the wasabi plants because this will retain soil moisture.
- Prune back any wilted or unsightly leaves or stems on the plant.
- Control weeds throughout the growing season and check for pests such as slugs and snails.
- A slow-release 12-12-12 fertilizer applied every three to four months is generally recommended when growing wasabi plants.
- Fertilizers high in sulfur are said to increase their flavour and spiciness.
- Harvest the roots in the spring or autumn when temperatures are cool.
- Keep in mind that it usually takes about two years for the rhizomes to mature or reach 4-6 inches (10 to 15 cm.) in length.
Enjoy your own wasabi
I’m Sofia Kitson, the Wasabi Crop Blogger. My interests are writing articles on growing and cooking with wasabi.