Wasabi is a food that’s consumption has spread beyond it’s native Japan to numerous countries around the world. It is commonly consumed as a food flavouring in many commercially produced snack foods. However, wasabi is best known as a side accompaniment to Sushi. Known to some as Japanese horseradish, people associate it’s flavour with being akin to a cross between mustard and horseradish. However, many people know very little about wasabi and even what it looks like. So, here is Wasabi 101…
Wasabia japonica is a member of the Brassica family. Large, heart shaped leaves grow on 60cm long stems from the crown of the plant. The wasabi stem, or rhizome, is formed at the base of the plant and grows upwards above ground taking up to two years to reach maturity. It is this stem which is grated to produce wasabi paste. The colour of the stem varies from a very light green to a darker green depending on variety, time of year and which part of the stem is grated.
Wasabi grows best in mountain stream beds that are out of direct sunlight and likes temperatures between 8°C (46°F) and 20 °C (70°F). These difficult growing conditions mean that demand for wasabi exceeds more than growers can supply, especially in non-growing countries outside Japan.
I was really excited to discover The Wasabi Company at this years’ International Food Event at London’s Excel Exhibition Centre. They have achieved one of the holy grails of the horticultural world by successfully cultivating wasabi in Southern England. I spoke to Nick Russell from The Wasabi Company who told me the story of his company. You can hear the interview by clicking on the play button below.