Wasabi (Japanese Horseradish)

Botanical Name : Wasabia japonica or Eutrema japonica
Family:    Brassicaceae
Genus:    Wasabia
Species:W. japonica
Kingdom:Plantae
Order:    Brassicales

Other Names: Japanese Horseradish
French: Raifort du Japon
German: Bergstockrose, Japanischer Kren
Korean: Kochu-naengi, Gochu-naengi, Gyeoja-naengi, Kyoja-naengi, Wasabi
Thai: Wasabi
Chinese (Canonese): Saan kwai
Chinese (Mandarin): Shan kui

As one of the most prized crops from Japan, this pale green root is grown in cold mountain streams under some of the most closely guarded growing practices in agriculture. Many outside Japan have gone to great lengths to duplicate its wonderfully hot flavour. In fact, most of the commercial wasabi products in the west are fake. Many of us believe wasabi is the eye-watering and sinus-scouring vivid green side dish paste served with sushi, however, most of the time it is a concoction of horseradish, mustard, and artificial colouring.

Plant Description and Cultivation
Wasabia japonica is a slow growing perennial with a rooted, thickened rhizome, long petioles and large leaves. The wasabi rhizome looks much like a brussel sprout stalk after the sprouts are removed. The long stems (petioles) of the Wasabia Japonica plant emerge from the rhizome to grow to a length of 12 to 18 inches and can reach a diameter of up to 1 ½ inches. They merge into single heart shaped leaves that can reach the size of a small dinner plate.

CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES

Wasabia Japonoica plants can take as much as three years to reach maturity. Initially, given the right conditions, the wasabi plant produces robust top and root growth, growing to about 2 feet with an overall width about the same. After this initial establishment phase the rhizome begins to build and store reproductive nutrients, reaching a size of 6 to 8 inches in approximately two years.
Wasabi can grow in the ground, but commonly it’s cultivated in water. It’s said that it’s very difficult to grow wasabi. For wasabi cultivation, clean water is essential, and the temperature must be mild (heat must be avoided). When the wasabi plant grows to nearly 20 inches tall, with green leaves on the head, the rhizome grows above the root and the plant is ready for harvesting.

Since the flavor is wonderful, you might want to use fresh wasabi in your cooking. If you want to buy fresh wasabi, there is a place online that sell it.
Click to buy Wasabi
Under optimum conditions, Wasabia Japonica will reproduce itself by seed, though on commercial wasabi farms, plant stock is typically extended by replanting small offshoots which characteristically occur as the plant matures.

Wasabi prefers the cool, damp conditions found in misty mountain stream beds. It generally requires a climate with an air temperature between 8°C (46°F) and 20 °C (70°F), and prefers high humidity in summer. It is quite intolerant of direct sunlight so it is grown beneath a natural forest canopy or man-made shade.

CLICK & SEE

Wasabia Japonica grows in northern Japan, parts of China, Taiwan, Korea and New Zealand. In North America, the rain forests found in British Columbia, the Oregon Coast and in parts of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina and Tenessee provide the right balance of climate, sunlight and water quality to grow natural wasabi. Limited success has been achieved by firms using greenhouse and/or hydroponic techniques, but the resulting costs are typically quite high. There are two main strategies that are used in growing Wasabi. The higher quality Wasabi, both in appearance and taste, grows in cool mountain streams and is known as semi-aquatic or “sawa” Wasabi. Wasabi known as field or “oka” Wasabi is grown in fields under varying conditions and generally results in a lower quality plant, both in appearance and taste.
Few places are suitable for large-scale wasabi cultivation, and cultivation is difficult even in ideal conditions. In Japan, wasabi is cultivated mainly in these regions:

Wasabia Japonica grows in northern Japan, parts of China, Taiwan, Korea and New Zealand. In North America, the rain forests found in British Columbia, the Oregon Coast and in parts of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina and Tenessee provide the right balance of climate, sunlight and water quality to grow natural wasabi. Limited success has been achieved by firms using greenhouse and/or hydroponic techniques, but the resulting costs are typically quite high. There are two main strategies that are used in growing Wasabi. The higher quality Wasabi, both in appearance and taste, grows in cool mountain streams and is known as semi-aquatic or “sawa” Wasabi. Wasabi known as field or “oka” Wasabi is grown in fields under varying conditions and generally results in a lower quality plant, both in appearance and taste.
Few places are suitable for large-scale wasabi cultivation, and cultivation is difficult even in ideal conditions. In Japan, wasabi is cultivated mainly in these regions:

Izu peninsula, located in Shizuoka prefecture
Nagano prefecture
Shimane prefecture
Yamanashi prefecture
Iwate prefecture
There are also numerous artificially cultivated facilities as far north as Hokkaidō and as far south as Kyūshū. The demand for real wasabi is very high. Japan has to import a large amount of it from:Mainland China and Ali Mountain of Taiwan, New Zealand.
In North America, a handful of companies and small farmers are successfully pursuing the trend by cultivating Wasabia japonica. While only the Pacific Northwest and parts of the Blue Ridge Mountains provide the right balance of climate and water for natural cultivation of sawa (water grown) wasabi, the use of hydroponics and greenhouses has extended the range. British Columbia in Canada, Oregon in United States and North Carolina in United States.
While the finest sawa wasabi is grown in pure, constantly flowing water, without pesticides or fertilizers, some growers push growth with fertilizer such as chicken manure, which can be a source of downstream.

Spice Description
Wasabi a member of the cruciferae family originating in Japan and is related to cabbages. It is a perennial which grows about knee high, is semi aquatic and produces a thickened stem in a similar fashion to a small brussel sprout. As the stem grows the lower leaves fall off. This stem has a very pungent smell and flavour when made into a paste.

The fresh is certainly preferable, but in the West, it’s more commonly found as a dry powder. Premixed pastes are available but none capture the intensity well. Make your own paste from the powder or fresh root.

Preparation and Storage
Treat the fresh root like horseradish, shredding only as much as needed. Traditionally, a sharkskin grater or “oroshi” is used. Using sharkskin as a tool for grating wasabi has been a practice in Japan since the earliest times, and is still regarded as the preferred method of obtaining the best flavour, texture and consistency in freshly ground wasabi. If a sharkskin grater is not available, ceramic or stainless steel surfaces can be used. Ceramic graters with fine nubs are preferable to stainless steel, but in either case, the smaller and finer the ‘teeth’, the better.

Pulsing in a food mill pure will yield a fiery paste, or it can be tempered with other ingredients to make vinaigrettes, mayonnaise or other hot condiments.

Grating wasabi releases volatile compounds, which gradually dissipate with exposure to the air. Using a traditional sharkskin grater and keeping the rhizome at a 90-degree angle to the grating surface generally minimizes exposure to the air. In this way, the volatile compounds are allowed to develop with minimal dissipation. Once you have grated enough for the first ‘session’, pile the grated wasabi into a ball and let stand at room temperature for a few minutes to allow the flavor and heat to develop. The flavor will dissipate within a short period, so grate only what will be used within 15 or 20 minutes.

How To Grate Wasabi.
*Rinse the rhizome under cold running water.
*Scrape off any bumps or rough areas along the sides.
*Scrub the rhizome with a stiff brush.
*Cut the rhizome just below the leaf base and inspect the exposed flesh to ensure that it is a uniform green colour.
*Grate the cut end against the grater surface, using a circular motion.
*After use, rinse the rhizome under cold running water. If you are using a sharkskin grater, rinse it under cold running water as well and let it air dry.

Your ads will be inserted here by

Easy Plugin for AdSense.

Please go to the plugin admin page to
Paste your ad code OR
Suppress this ad slot.

If you have powdered wasabi, make sure to allow some time once it is rehydrated so that the flavour compounds come back to the surface.
Wasabi powder is very convenient for use and storage, when sealed in an air-tight container or bag, and stored in low temperature, the self-life is almost 2 years.

Uses
Wasabi is generally sold either in the form of a root, which must be very finely grated before use, or as a ready-to-use paste, usually in tubes approximately the size and shape of travel toothpaste tubes. Once the paste is prepared it should remain covered until served to protect the flavor from evaporation. For this reason, sushi chefs usually put the wasabi between the fish and the rice.

Fresh leaves of wasabi can also be eaten and have some of the hot flavor of wasabi roots. They can be eaten as wasabi salad by pickling overnight with a salt and vinegar based dressing, or by quickly boiling them with a little soy sauce. Additionally, the leaves can be battered and deep-fried into chips.

For those who mistakenly consume too much of this condiment, the burning sensations it can induce are short-lived compared to the effects of chili peppers, especially when water is used to dissipate the flavor.

Wasabi is often served with sushi or sashimi, usually accompanied with soy sauce. The two are sometimes mixed to form a single dipping sauce known as Wasabi-joyu. Legumes may be roasted or fried, then coated with a wasabi-like mixture (usually an imitation); these are then eaten as an eye-watering “in the hand” snack.

Wasabi Ice Cream is a recent but increasingly popular innovation.

Culinary Uses
The pungent flavour of Wasabi lends itself to a great range of culinary uses. For most people the first introduction to its splendid taste is as a condiment for use with Japanese dishes such as Sushi, Sushimi and Soba dishes, and also with raw fish. For these uses it is ground up into a paste for seasoning.

Wasabi (Japanese horseradish) is an essential condiment in Japanese cuisine. It’s the light green paste that accompanies sushi, seafood, noodle dishes, and more. Typically, people dip sashimi (raw fish) slices in a mixture of wasabi and soy sauce. Wasabi is said to be effective as an antidote to prevent food poisoning. That is one reason that wasabi is served with sushi and raw fish slices.

Ideally, to use fresh wasabi, the rhizome is grated by a metal grater. But the availability of fresh wasabi rhizomes is usually low, and 100 % real, fresh wasabi is rarely used. Wasabi powder, which is used by mixing with water, or tubed wasabi, is substituted for fresh wasabi.
These prepared products are commonly used in Japanese homecooking.
The powdered wasabi is made mainly from seiyo-wasabi (western horseradish) powder, mustard powder, and food colorings. Also, the Japanese brands of tubed wasabi (such as S&B) include both real wasabi and western horseradish. It’s more convenient and cheaper to use the wasabi substitutes than using fresh wasabi. But, the taste and smell of real wasabi can never be matched. If you are using the powdered wasabi, mix with it water right before you intend to use it. You can ensure the best flavor that way.

Increasingly, we are finding that the use of wasabi extends beyond the scope of these traditional dishes. It is a flavour in its own right and can be used to enhance dips, meats and other foods.

Chemistry
The chemicals in wasabi that provide its unique flavor are the isothiocyanates, including:

6-methylthiohexyl isothiocyanate,
7-methylthioheptyl isothiocyanate and
8-methylthiooctyl isothiocyanate.
Research has shown that isothiocyanates have beneficial effects such as inhibiting microbe growth. This may partially explain why wasabi is traditionally served with seafood, which spoils quickly. However, if the quality of seafood is questionable, it should not be eaten raw, with or without wasabi. It is not a treatment for food poisoning.

Attributed Medicinal Properties
Besides its unique role as a food condiment, Wasabi also possesses many potential health benefits. A number of studies have shown that the active ingredients in Wasabia japonica are able to kill a number of different types of cancer cells, reduce the possibility of getting blood clots, encourages the bodies own defences to discard cells that have started to mutate, and acts as an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent against food poisons.

Wasabia Japonica owes its flavor and health benefits in part to a suite of isothicyanates (ITC’s) with unique characteristics including powerful anti-bacterial properties, which help mitigate microbial elements or pathogens potentially present. This helps reduce the effects food poisoning, supports detoxification and helps prevent conditions that lead to tooth decay. Rich in beta-carotenes and glucosinolates, Wasabi also kills some forms of E-Coli and Staphylococcus. Studies also indicate it helps reduce mucous, which has made it the focus of experiments relating to its use in combating asthma and congestive disorders.

The unique ITC group found in Wasabi includes long-chain methyl isothicyanates which are uncommon in most American’s diets. Long-chain methyl ITC’s have proven efficacy and potency in supporting natural liver and digestive detoxification functions than other more common types of isothicyanates.

The powerful antioxidant characterisics of Wasabi are also attracting additional scientific study. Evidence suggests that glucosinolates and their hydrolysis products are efficacious in reducing cancer risk by encouraging the immune system to discard mutagenic cells.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Wasabi%2C_Iwasaki_Kanen_1828.jpg
http://www.theepicentre.com/Spices/wasabi.html
http://japanesefood.about.com/od/wasabi/a/wasabi.htm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *