Category Archives: wasabi kick

The Wasabi Kick

The freshly grated wasabi hides a secret known as the Wasabi Kick which produces a zingy heat when consumed with your favourite food. This pale green grated powder is known as Japanese horseradish, but this is not the same as the horseradish which complements your roast dinner. It is a distant cousin and is formally known as Wasabia japonica – a member of the Brassicaceae family. Wasabi is closely related to cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and mustard.

Wasabi is cultivated in Japan alongside mountain stream beds enabling the production of a vast carpet of unique plants. They are long-stemmed with heart-shaped leaves and white flowers which branch from a knotted, thick, swollen stem, known as a rhizome.

The two main methods of growing wasabi involve the usage of semi-aquatic conditions to produce the sawa type (grown in water) and in fields to give oka wasabi (grown in soil). Usually, under sawa conditions larger rhizomes are formed than in oka grown wasabi. However, both give that extraordinary wasabi kick.

The wasabi plant is tough to cultivate and it flourishes best in mountain stream water.  At Wasabi Crop, we have developed expertise through continuous chemistry to generate wasabi rhizomes, leaves and stems for all our customers.

Real wasabi is expensive to cultivate and the majority is consumed in Japan: this is the major reason why most people have not tasted real wasabi. Most wasabi sold in supermarkets, sushi bars and restaurants is fake.  This fake wasabi usually consists of horseradish, mustard, starch and green food colouring.

Can you tell the difference between true wasabi and fake wasabi?

Yes, you can!

In most cases, when wasabi is ordered with your food, a squirt of ‘bright’ green toothpaste-like material is placed on your plate – and the customer is under an illusion because it is almost certainly fake wasabi!

Fake Wasabi

Fake Wasabi

Genuine wasabi is grated in front of the customer to produce the wasabi powder.  The best grater to use is the sharkskin paddle because it can finely grate the rhizomes. This grating process initiates chemical reactions through the mechanical damage of the cells inside the rhizome producing volatile compounds, rich in flavour.

Real Wasabi

Real Wasabi

The heat usually produced lasts for about 20 minutes and this is usually enough time to experience the wasabi kick.  This event does not happen with horseradish – which can retain its potency and sharp flavour for many days. The chemistry of horseradish and wasabi are similar but each have different amounts of naturally flavoured compounds to each their individual, unique flavour profile.  The central component in horseradish and wasabi rhizomes are glucose sulphur-containing organic compounds known as thio-glucosides.

During the grating and maceration of the rhizome, the cell walls break releasing the thio-glucosides and the enzyme called myrosinase.

What is the role of myrosinase?

Essentially, the main function of myrosinase is to break down the thioglucosides into glucose and by a chemical rearrangement called the Lossen Rearrangement generating varying amounts of isothiocyanate compounds.

So, during this process, the horseradish and wasabi will both produce different concentrations of the isothiocyanates.  Interestingly, horseradish generates about 10% less of the total isothiocyanates per kilogram of horseradish compared to wasabi.

The major isothiocyanate compound present in wasabi is called allyl isothiocyanate and this association is REAL WASABI producing a pungent zingy wasabi kick.  Another component is called 2-phenylethyl isothiocyanate and this is surprisingly found in horseradish. Other compounds include 6-methylthiohexyl isothiocyanate, 7-methylthioheptyl isothiocyanate and 8-methylthiooctyl isothiocyanate.

Studies have shown that isothiocyanates inhibit microbe growth and provide great benefits for preserving food against spoilage and suppressing oral bacterial growth.

More on allyl isothiocyanate!

The allyl isothiocyanate is responsible for the wasabi kick generating heat when consumed and this is different from that produced by chillies and peppers.

wasabi kick

wasabi kick chemistry

Hot peppers contain the compound capsaicin which stimulates the tongue. The heat created on the tongue can only be removed with oil based foods.  The experience that you will obtain from wasabi in your mouth is that of allyl isothiocyanate volatile vapours stimulating the nasal passages and this simply does not take place with capsaicin-containing foods.

In summary, the wasabi experience is related to the amount of allyl thiocyanate consumed. So, eat and enjoy plenty of freshly grated wasabi. The only solution if you can not manage the wasabi kick is just to control it with the consumption of food and/or beverages.

Real wasabi is expensive and the majority of it is consumed in Japan – here at Wasabi Crop we will give you the opportunity to buy wasabi varieties and let’s not forget the delicious leaves and stems for your stir fries and salads.

Enjoy your fresh wasabi – providing new foods for your table!

Sofia Kitson

Wasabi Crop Blog

Growing Wasabi in Northern Ireland

mazuma wasabi

Here at Wasabi Crop we have been growing Wasabi for the last several months and will be ready for harvest in 2018. To many this may seem a long time, but it does take two years to grow top quality rhizomes. The good news is that leaves and stems will be for sale in 2017. Wasabi Crop is the only commercial grower in Northern Ireland and we cannot wait to serve all our customers with our Wasabi varieties. These include Mazuma, Daruma and Green Thumb including all their corresponding leaves and stems.

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Mazuma Wasabi Plant from our Wasabi Crop Facility

The history of wasabi goes back to the ancient Japanese who were consuming wasabi around 14,000 B.C.  The cultivation of wasabi is mostly done in Japan and gained popularity through the serving of sushi. Wasabi complements sushi through its flavour and associated antibacterial properties to offset food poisoning. Wasabi has an interesting botany. It is known as Wasabia japonica which is part of the Brassica family. This family consists of horseradish mustard and cabbage.

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Fresh Baby Wasabi Leaves & Stems Grown at Wasabi Crop

Wasabi has very distinctive heart-shaped green leaves which can grow on long thick stems protruding from the crown of the plant.  The wasabi stem is known as the rhizome and is located at the base of the plant and over time grows upwards above ground. The rhizome is ready for harvest within two years. The rhizome is the most valuable part of the plant and this is used to produce freshly grated wasabi paste. The harvested pale green rhizome can be grated using a sharkskin grater.

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Large Wasabi Leaves from our plants

Wasabi is especially challenging and expensive to cultivate and this is the reason why there is a lot of fake wasabi being sold and consumed. These wasabi so called products contain tiny amounts of real wasabi such as less than 0.3%. It is amazing that they can sell these as wasabi products. Interestingly, just by reading the ingredients, on these so called wasabi foodstuffs, you will be amazed they contain a combination of horseradish, mustard and green dye and very tiny amount of real wasabi. Unbelievably, they are all marketed as wasabi products which do contain any wasabi at all – scandalous!

So, at Wasabi Crop we have set ourselves the challenge to grow real fresh wasabi – here in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. County Armagh is famous for growing apples such as Bramley

county-armagh

Bramley Apple Trees – County Armagh

After much research into cultivating wasabi we have mastered the growing. Presently, we are growing Mazuma wasabi. All our wasabi will be ready for 2018; this may seem far away because wasabi rhizomes take two years to mature. Just think our customers will be able to buy real fresh wasabi from us in 2018 and every year after that.

fresh-wasabi

Freshly Grated Wasabi

On receiving the wasabi rhizome – recognised by its stunning pale green colour – just grate it in circular motions by using a grater it is best to use a traditional Japanese sharkskin grater. Then just add the freshly grated wasabi to your favourite recipe of choice. Imagine the possibility of wasabi ice cream and wasabi chocolate or even a wasabi beverage. The experience of tasting freshly grated wasabi with its pungent heat generates a taste which is very different from chilli for example.

The wasabi kick comes into action and develops quickly to diffuse up the sinuses rather than staying in the mouth, then quickly dissipates. The wasabi kick experience delivers a refreshing heat, – so try it. Not only is wasabi a herb it is a medicinal plant providing heath benefits due to its key component of allyl isothiocyanate which releases during the grating process. The isothiocyanates enable wasabi to produce associated antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiparasitic properties.

Several research studies are evaluating the constituents for the prevention of certain disease states like cancer. Wasabi would make a great contribution towards a healthy diet by providing low cholesterol and sodium constituents. Consequently, it is a source of dietary fibre and vitamin C and a provider of vitamin B6. In addition to the elements of calcium, magnesium, potassium and manganese.

So, please visit Wasabi Crop and sign-up for the latest wasabi crop updates.Enjoy your fresh
wasabi – providing new foods for your table!

 

Sofia Kitson

Wasabi Crop