Wasabi is a herb from the Brassicaceae family that is related to cabbage, mustard and radish.  Wasabi is part of Japanese food culture and has been utilised as a medicinal plant since the Asuka period (538 to 710).  During an archaeological dig of a garden pond in Asuka, Nara Prefecture, several wooden sticks with medicinal plant names were found.  This indicated that herbs were being grown in the garden.  One of the wooden sticks had the words inscribed Wasabi Sansho and was probably used as a label to store wasabi.  During the Heian period (794–1185), the word wasabi was found in the oldest dictionary of medicinal plants called the Honzowamyo.  Also, wasabi was referenced in the Engishiki – Japan’s oldest collection of laws and customs.

Nevertheless, wasabi was first cultivated in the early Edo period and was embraced by the Tokugawa Ieyasu.  During the Keicho era (1596–1615), wasabi was found upstream from the Abe River: this may have been one of the places that wasabi was first cultivated.  Indeed, during the late Edo period (1804-1830), wasabi was used to season food.  Wasabi became a versatile ingredient during this period because of its antibacterial properties. The antimicrobial agent 6-methylsulfinylhexyl isothiocyanate has been identified in wasabi and is effective against bacteria such as E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus.  Therefore, wasabi helps to prevent food poisoning.  Also, wasabi contains a chemical called allyl isothiocyanate and is responsible for the wasabi kick.

Wasabi is a versatile herb that can be added to soba noodles, wasabi rice bowls, dipping sauces or served with any of your favourite dishes.  Besides its antibacterial properties and isothiocyanates, it also anti-inflammatory and contains antimicrobial properties. The leaves and stems contain calcium and vitamin C and besides being effective against food poisoning, it may be useful against allergies, inflammation and in some cases, cancer.

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