Types of wasabi
Genuine wasabi is originally from Japan and has long grown wildly in places where pure water flows, like mountain streams.
Wasabi is referred to as either “Sawa wasabi” (water wasabi) or “Hatake wasabi” (land wasabi) depending on the way it is grown.
Sawa wasabi uses water from mountain streams or spring water to cultivate wasabi in manmade wasabi fields and Hatake wasabi is grown in fields with cool air and high humidity.
To reach maturity, both types of wasabi take 2 – 3 years of growth in nature’s harsh conditions.
As wasabi grows while being subjected to changes in climate and soil conditions, it is inevitable that only a small amount can actually be harvested, making the unique taste and aroma, and pungent stimulus of genuine wasabi a first-class product.
The difference between wasabi and horseradish
Horseradish was originally grown in Eastern Europe.
It has strong reproductive abilities and is resilient to pests, making fertilizer and pesticides unnecessary. It takes about 8 months for horseradish to reach full maturity.
When grated, it is white in color and characterized by its sharp, strong pungency. In Japan, it is referred to as Western wasabi. It is used to add flavor to such Western-style dishes as roast beef.
It is also used in tube wasabi and wasabi powder.
Wasabi’s living environment
Wasabi is extremely delicate. It cannot grow well in a place that isn’t cool and doesn’t have plenty of pure, clean water. As wasabi is vulnerable to high temperatures and direct sunlight, a cover of trees are normally used to provide shade. In Azumino, the unique method of using black cloth is employed to provide shade. This means that wasabi cannot be grown just anywhere. Approximately 60% of all wasabi grown in Japan is grown in Nagano and Shizuoka prefectures. Recently it is also grown in Taiwan, Indonesia, and New Zealand.
How wasabi is grown
Wasabi goes through different stages of growth over the course of a year.
Sprouts begin to appear and start growing steadily from around March when the weather begins to warm. The plants’ flowers bloom from late-March to early-April. When the temperature rises in July, growth stops and the leaves start to wither. Growth begins once again from late-September, and will continue until around December. In general, wasabi is harvested within 3 years of planting.
The roots, leaves, and flowers of wasabi plants are not often available for distribution as they spoil quickly, but they are eaten in places where wasabi is grown. They are lightly boiled and can be eaten in rolled sushi, tempura, or various other ways.
The history of wasabi
The first written mention of wasabi appeared in a dictionary of medicinal herbs written in Japan in 918. In this era it wasn’t used often, but it is said in the 13th century wasabi that grew wildly at Zen temples was eaten. This appears to be the beginning of its wider spread use.
In a cookbook written in 1489, the preparation method of dipping carp sashimi in wasabi vinegar was introduced. It is said that wasabi first began to be used with sashimi around this time.
At the beginning of the 17th century, it began being used as a spice added to soba, however at that time wasabi was prized as a tribute presented to figures of authority, therefore it was not well-known amongst the common people.
Surprisingly, it was only relatively recently, around the years 1818 – 1830, that wasabi began to be used with sushi. It was during this era that sushi and soba became common foods and the use of wasabi became more widespread, however it was almost completely wild-grown wasabi that was used at this time.
Wasabi’s effects and potency
Wasabi’s pungent component “Arirukarashi oil” has an antibacterial effect that can suppress the growth of E. coli, salmonella, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Staphylococcus aureus, and a number of other food poisoning inducing bacteria. It also has mold and yeast growth inhibiting effects.
|Specimen name||B. subtilis||E. coli||Saccharomyces||Aspergillus|
|Ho leaf oil||±||＋||±||-|
|Lemon grass oil||-||＋||-||-|
-：Doesn’t allow Growth ＋：Allows Growth ±：Neither
Deodorizing effect, appetite stimulating effect
In addition to the ability to diffuse fish odors that Allylmustard oil found in wasabi’s pungent component possesses, its unique stimulating flavor also encourages the appetite.