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Wasabi - Mountain Bully

Wasabi is a perennial plant native to Japan where it can be grown throughout the year. It still grows in the wild in clear streams of deep mountain forests from the main northern island of Sakhalin all the way to the south, to the island of Kyushu. Most of the most valuable wasabi root is grown in Japan on the Izu Peninsula, where, thanks to the mild climate and abundant rains, nature itself has created ideal conditions for its prosperous existence. In these parts of the mountain Japanese villages, the secrets of wasabi cultivation are passed down from generation to generation. But most of the wasabi available on the world market today is grown in the fields.

Wasabi plantation in Japan

Currently, wasabi is grown not only in Japan, but also in China, the USA, Korea, New Zealand and Taiwan, but only the Japanese plant is considered a classic wasabi. Wasabi is grown on special farms for breeding this plant. The main conditions for its growth are cold mountain water and a semi-submerged state.

Wasabi in English - Japanese horseradish, in German - Japanischer Meerrettich, in French - Raifort du Japon. And the word "wasabi" itself is translated from Japanese as "mountain bully".

Wasabi is often called Japanese horseradish, but despite its unconditional kinship, wasabi is not at all. Although western horseradish and wasabi are members of the same cabbage family (Brassicaceae), which, among others, also includes various cabbages and mustard, wasabi belongs to a different genus. Horseradish belongs to the genus Armoracia, and wasabi - to the family Wasabia.

Horseradish is widely cultivated all over the world due to its large roots with brown skin and pure white inner flesh, while the bright green rhizome of wasabi is a real and expensive masterpiece of nature.

The plant is best known for the seasoning obtained from the wasabi root. The dried root is ground up and widely used in Japanese cuisine.

The history of wasabi

 

Wasabi is a traditional Japanese herb originally known as medicinal wild ginger. Today, wasabi is an essential component of Japanese food culture, just like sushi or soba (buckwheat noodles). However, historical finds show that in ancient times, such as the Asuka period (late 6th - early 7th centuries), it was used exclusively as an herbal remedy. This plant was mentioned in the Japanese medical encyclopedia Honzo-wamyo, published in the early 10th century. In the comments, it was pointed out that wild ginger is an antidote for raw fish poisoning. Due to the demands of wasabi cultivation, rhizomes have always been considered an exclusive commodity, originally intended only for the ruling class.

Japanese Eutrema, or wasabi

Wasabi began to be used in Japanese cooking during the Kamakura period (end of the 12th century), in any case, it was in the cookbooks of that era that historians first encountered such an ingredient - wasabi.

Later, in the Keicho era of the Edo period (late 16th - early 17th centuries), a fairly widespread cultivation of wasabi began in Shizuoka. And during the Bunsei and Tenpo era (late 18th century), sushi and soba became so popular in Japan that it led to the widespread and rapid spread of wasabi as a condiment throughout the country.

Botanical portrait

 

Japanese Eutrema, or wasabi

Japanese Eutrem, or wasabi(Eutrema japonicum) - a perennial herb belonging to the cabbage family. The genus Wasabi includes 31 species of plants growing in East Asia, but only one of them is cultivated - Wasabia japonica.

Wasabi is a perennial plant reaching a height of 50 cm. The stem is creeping or ascending. Large leaves up to 15 cm wide, located on long petioles, heart-shaped and slightly wavy edges. As the rhizome grows, the leaves fall off. The plant blooms in April-May with small white flowers, collected in the apical part in the brush.The flower petals are ovoid and have an elongated nail. The fruit is in the form of a pod with seeds. Starting from the age of 1.5 years, the wasabi rhizome thickens and can eventually reach 15 cm. It takes about 2-3 years for the plant to grow fully, and, depending on climatic conditions, each rhizome can produce up to 20 root branches. The roots have a very pungent taste and a pungent specific smell, and the taste is more intense in the upper part of the rhizome than in the lower one.

In Japan, real wasabi is grown in cold (+ 10 ... + 17 ° C) running water in the mountains, on mountain terraces, flowing streams through them. Wasabi grows very slowly, the root lengthens by about 3 cm per year. The most expensive seasoning is called "honwasabi" (translated from Japanese - "real wasabi"), it is prepared exclusively from plants grown in the wild. But now wasabi is grown like other vegetables in vegetable gardens, although this option is not considered real wasabi. Honwasabi can only be found in Japan. Since the wild plant is quite rare, honwasabi is very expensive. The price for one kilogram of the original product starts from 250 euros. And the demand for this unique root crop is several times higher than the supply.

In most cases, shops and restaurants offer imitation wasabi made from wasabi daikon. This vegetable is easy to grow and cheap to produce. It is used to make wasabi powder and paste, as well as seasoning tablets. Since the natural color of daikon is white, green dye is added to it to look like wasabi.

Read also:

  • The beneficial properties of wasabi
  • Wasabi in cooking
  • What is real wasabi?
  • Kaleidoscope of dishes with wasabi
  • How wasabi is grown
Japanese Eutrema, or wasabi