Everyone is talking about Fresh Wasabi

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Fresh wasabi, a pivotal ingredient in Japanese cuisine, is traditionally a rarity outside its native land. Yet, this spicy and vibrant herb is now being cultivated commercially in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, by Wasabi Crop. This innovative venture, initiated by Dr Sean Kitson and inspired by his son Zak, focuses on nurturing wasabi plants to produce valuable rhizomes. Over recent years, our efforts have been highlighted in numerous newspaper articles and media appearances across TV and radio, showcasing the cultivation of fresh wasabi on the island of Ireland. We are actively promoting this crop, known as one of the world’s most expensive, aiming to export our wasabi rhizomes to Japan.

Green Gold: The Rise of Wasabi Cultivation in Northern Ireland and Its Global Impact

The cultivation of wasabi in Northern Ireland has gained significant attention and acclaim, as evidenced by a series of articles that spotlight this rare and challenging venture. Wasabi, often dubbed the world’s most expensive herb due to its difficult growing conditions and labour-intensive cultivation requirements, has found a new home in the Irish climate, which surprisingly mirrors the cool, shaded conditions of its native Japan.

Articles such as “Turning Japanese: Co Armagh dad and son crack secret to growing wasabi” from the Belfast Telegraph and “Wasabi is being grown in Northern Ireland commercially for the first time” highlight the pioneering efforts of local farmers who have successfully cultivated wasabi. This endeavour not only diversifies the agricultural landscape of Northern Ireland but also offers a promising new avenue for local agriculture.

From Portadown To Downtown Tokyo” and other pieces like “Northern Irish grown wasabi launched in London” detail the market response and the burgeoning interest in these locally grown products, which are now making their way to markets and culinary scenes well beyond their place of origin. The narrative extends to articles such as “World’s most expensive vegetable grown in Tandragee” and “Wasabi Grower Brings The “Zing” To London Produce Show”, which discuss the economic and gastronomic potential of wasabi grown in Ireland.

The growing success story is further elaborated in articles like “Tasty ‘kick’ from Northern Ireland for Japan’s favourite herb” and “Fake Wasabi Grates On British Growers Who Are The Real Deal“, which not only address the commercial aspect but also the authenticity and quality of the Irish-grown wasabi compared to often-used substitutes.

Spicing Up the Green: The Emergence of Wasabi Cultivation in Northern Ireland

The cultivation of wasabi in Northern Ireland is becoming an intriguing and pioneering agricultural endeavour, drawing significant attention from various media outlets. Here’s a roundup of notable articles that have covered this unique venture:

  1. Putting Down Roots: Growing Wasabi in Northern Ireland” (Fine Dining Lovers) – This article delves into the specifics of wasabi cultivation in Northern Ireland, exploring the techniques and environmental conditions that make the region suitable for this challenging crop.
  2. Wasabi Production Opens Up in Northern Ireland” (Fresh Produce Journal) – Discusses the opening of new wasabi farms in Northern Ireland, marking a significant step in diversifying local agriculture and introducing new culinary ingredients to the market.
  3. Armagh Father and Son Grow Ireland’s Most Expensive Vegetable” (Irish Examiner) – This piece highlights the personal story of a father and son duo in Armagh, who have embarked on the ambitious project of growing wasabi, dubbed Ireland’s most expensive vegetable due to its labour-intensive cultivation.
  4. From Connemara Abalone to Carlow Snails and Irish Tea, Meet the People Growing Ireland’s Newest Crop Stars” (Independent.ie) – Although focusing on a variety of unique crops, this article contextualizes the trend of exotic and niche agricultural ventures in Ireland, including the cultivation of wasabi.
  5. Giving Fake Wasabi the Chop: A Production Snapshot Outside Japan” (Real Wasabi) – Offers a broader look at wasabi production globally, emphasizing the authenticity and quality challenges faced when growing wasabi outside its native Japan.
  6. Sometimes I Have to Pinch Myself” (Daily Mail) – While primarily about celebrity chef James Martin’s experiences and new cookbook, this article also touches on the broader culinary diversity and innovation found across the UK, including the new ventures in wasabi cultivation.
  7. County Armagh Plan for First Wasabi Crop Heats Up” (BCCJ Acumen) – Reports on the initial stages and plans for establishing wasabi cultivation in County Armagh, underscoring the local enthusiasm and economic potential for this crop.
  8. Green Gold’ Wasabi Adds Spice to Garden” (The Times) – Refers to wasabi as “green gold” and discusses its potential to transform not just local agriculture but also to enhance culinary gardens and gourmet dishes.

In essence, the collection of these articles paints a comprehensive picture of how Northern Ireland is not just adopting new agricultural products but is also successfully integrating them into the global market, thereby adding a valuable and exotic element to its agricultural exports. This development enriches local farming practices and positions Northern Ireland on the world culinary map as a region capable of producing high-quality, niche crops.

Fresh Wasabi grown in County Armagh

During one of our promotional trips, we showcased our large wasabi plants at the London Produce Show to give other traders opportunities to sample the fresh wasabi leaves and stems. After the show, we left one of the wasabi plants at the Grosvenor House Hotel, where it was shown off to both the clients and chefs, who were fascinated by it.

At the London Produce Show, we presented our large wasabi plants, allowing traders to sample fresh leaves and stems. Afterwards, a plant was displayed at the Grosvenor House Hotel, captivating both clients and chefs with its uniqueness.

The amazing fact about Wasabi is that it has bacterial properties and is extremely rich in antioxidants that can help boost the body’s immune system by removing harmful toxins.

The origins of this herb are found in the mountain streams of the Shizuoka Prefecture of Japan. It flourishes when its roots are in flowing sparkling water from the snow slopes of Mount Fuji, known to be Japan’s most sacred mountain. Indeed, wasabi cultivation can be traced back to the ancient Japanese, who consumed the wasabi plant around 14,000 BC.

Today, wasabi is mostly grown in Japan, where it has become famous for its association with sushi.  However, Wasabi has interesting botany and is known as wasabia japonica, a member of the Brassica family.  Other members of this family are horseradish, mustard and cabbage.

The most valuable part of the wasabi plant is the rhizome, a swollen stem that grows above the ground and takes over two years to mature. 

Wasabi Rhizomes – King of the Herbs

Freshly grated Wasabi can be valuable to various recipes and other foodstuffs, including ice cream and vodka.  The rhizome can be freshly grated into a wasabi paste and used to suit your cuisine.  At Wasabi Crop, we have mastered the cultivation of real Wasabi, whereas there is currently a vast amount of fake Wasabi sold in supermarkets and restaurants.  Fresh Wasabi has an intense, hot flavour, which is different from chilli and produces a wasabi kick, which results in a zingy and refreshing hot flavour on the tongue.

Wasabia japonica is known as the King of the Herbs. This medicinal plant conveys many health benefits due to its allyl isothiocyanate, which is released during the grating process—this natural compound has antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiparasitic properties. 

In addition, wasabi is a good source of dietary fibre, vitamin C and vitamin B6, as well as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and manganese.  At Wasabi Crop, you can buy the wasabi plant, including rhizomes, leaves, stems, and edible wasabi flowers.

If you are interested, you can listen to Wasabi Crop talking about growing Wasabi on the island of Ireland when they appeared on the Ray D’Arcy radio show.

Ear to the Ground films at Wasabi Crop

Furthermore, Wasabi Crop made some TV appearances on Ear to the Ground when Ella McSweeney visited wasabi farmers Dr Sean Kitson and his son Zak to harvest some rhizomes.

Ear to the Ground vist wasabi crop

Ella McSweeney, the presenter of Ear to the Ground, went to visit first-time wasabi farmers Dr Sean Kitson and his son Zak to harvest some rhizomes

James Martin TV show visits Wasabi Crop

Then, in Summer 2019, we had a visit from James Martin and Paul Rankin when they discovered real Wasabi was being cultivated in County Armagh.  James cooked with fresh wasabi rhizomes dug up from our Wasabi crop-growing facility during the show.  These rhizomes were used to prepare a mountain-view salmon dish overlooking the dramatic backdrop of Slieve Gullion, which is the highest point in County Armagh.

James Martin and Paul Rankin vist Zak at Wasabi Crop
James Martin, Zak Kitson and Paul Rankin at Wasabi Crop

Over the last few years, Wasabi Crop has been in the news about growing fresh wasabi on the island of Ireland. We have been busy promoting fresh wasabi.

Armagh food tours visiting wasabi crop
Tours and Trails of County Armagh visiting Wasabi Crop

Wasabi Crop captures media spotlight

Japanese wasabi at the London Produce Show
Turning Japanese: Co Armagh dad and son crack secret to growing wasabi
Ear to the Ground vist wasabi crop
Armagh father and son grow Ireland’s most expensive vegetable
A bowl containg fresh wasabi root
Green gold wasabi adds spice to garden

Thriving in the Green: Northern Ireland’s Pioneering Wasabi Venture

The journey of wasabi cultivation in Northern Ireland has evolved from an ambitious experiment to a burgeoning industry, carving out a niche within the global agricultural landscape. Led by Dr Sean Kitson and his son Zak, the initiative has not only introduced a novel crop to Irish soil. Still, it has also positioned Northern Ireland as a key player in the high-value wasabi market. The successful adaptation of wasabi to the Irish climate, which mimics its native conditions in Japan, underscores the potential of innovative agricultural practices in transforming regional farming and enhancing local economies.

The significant media coverage and enthusiasm at international events like the London Produce Show highlight the growing interest and potential markets for this “green gold.” As Northern Ireland continues cultivating and possibly exporting wasabi rhizomes to Japan, it paves the way for new agricultural advancements and economic opportunities. This venture not only diversifies the agricultural portfolio of the region but also sets a precedent for future agricultural innovation, proving that with the right conditions and dedication, even the most challenging crops can flourish far from their traditional homes.

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