One of my favorite places to go for a lunch takeaway is Japanese sushi. For the longest time, I’ve always thought the wasabi paste provided with the sushi rolls was genuine wasabi. I had no reason to think otherwise. That’s until I recently learned that they were made with other ingredients!
Most wasabi paste found in supermarkets and sushi hubs is actually made out of horseradish and mustard. This is cheaper and has a longer expiry than real wasabi. So the only way to get the real deal is to grow wasabi plants yourselves in your very own home.
Growing wasabi plants is not too tricky if you grow them in pots. Firstly, select a pot about 8 inches deep and fill it with a premium potting mix that is soft in texture and has moderate moisture retention. Secondly, plant the wasabi plant either from seed or propagated into the pot and place it in a location with plenty of indirect sun. Lastly, water the wasabi plant regularly to keep the soil moist. The wasabi can be harvested for consumption after two years.
This blog post teaches us more about growing wasabi plants in pots to extract real wasabi and no longer have to eat fake wasabi stored in those little green packets.
What Does A Wasabi Plant Look Like?
Wasabi plants sprout leaves that resemble the shape of a heart. They spread their foliage flat facing the sky. They do not like direct sunlight, and prolonged direct sun exposure will result in leaves wilting, but they rise happily again once they are out of the sun’s rays.
Top Tips For Growing Wasabi In Pots
The wasabi plant is arguably one of the trickier herbs to grow as they’re picky with their environment. Growing wasabi in pots or containers will allow you to move the plant around where necessary as conditions change.
In Sydney, it’s quite challenging to find wasabi plant seeds. I decided to get started by purchasing a baby wasabi plant from a Facebook marketplace seller.
Growing wasabi in a pot was my preferred cultivation method as most areas within my garden are exposed to full day’s sun. Sydney has also experienced some wild weather recently (October 2021), including heavy rain and hail.
Here are my top tips for growing wasabi in pots:
Choosing a pot
Selecting the correct pot size for the wasabi plant is of utmost importance as it needs enough space to grow its rhizome (the edible root-like stem).
If growing the wasabi plant from its seedling phase, you can use a pot that is 8 inches (20 cm) deep. The plant grows relatively quickly, so you’ll find it necessary to transplant it to a bigger pot between 8 to 12 months.
You can also start using a larger pot between 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 cm) deep. This will save the trouble of having to re-pot them at a later stage.
Growing wasabi plants in pots require copious amounts of organic matter to produce that fresh, thick, bright green rhizome. Ensure to invest in more premium soil for your wasabi plant to grow to yield the most satisfying wasabi possible. The composition of the soil should contain copious amounts of organic matter and be absent from any chemicals.
Wasabi plants prefer moist soil that is not dense. When preparing the soil mix, ensure that it contains coconut coir, mulch, perlite, and vermicompost to provide a rich medium to foster the growth of wasabi. This soil combination also provides moderate moisture retention.
Wasabi plants are thirsty drinkers and appreciate frequent watering. Never allow these plants to dry out as they will begin to wilt their leaves. Provide water in the morning to keep these plants hydrated throughout the day. When growing wasabi plants in pots, be sure to have drainage holes to allow excess moisture to flush out. Excess water sitting at the base of the pot will result in root rot.
Wasabi plants are cool climate crops that need to be under shaded areas at all times. Simply place your potted wasabi plant in a location out of the sun’s rays. The optimal weather temperature is between 54-59 F (12-15 C), but it will do just fine up to 82 F (27 C). Be mindful that the plant doesn’t adapt well to fluctuating temperatures. Growing wasabi plants in pots are advantageous as you can move the plant around the house as weather conditions change.
What Does Real Wasabi Taste Like?
If you’ve tried “wasabi” at the sushi train restaurant, you’ll notice that it has a short and sharp spice that is felt through the nose. The taste resembles more like those of radish and ginger than chili. Unfortunately, these herbs commonly found in Japanese restaurants are actually not real wasabi but are made from horseradish (and sometimes mustard) with green coloring. This is why fake wasabi burns much hotter and longer than real wasabi.
Tasting authentic wasabi is only possible by grating the rhizome of the wasabi plant. Real wasabi has a complex taste that brings a pungent spiciness through your nasal system. The taste is not actually spicy in the sense of a burning sensation, but more so an aroma of spiciness. The sensation felt is a short fading heat leaving a tint of sweetness in the mouth.
Is Real Wasabi Spicy?
Yes, but it’s not the same sort of spice you’d experience from the chili sauce. Real wasabi gives an intense spice up the nose in contrast with the chili spice that is felt by the tongue. Real wasabi can only be tasted by the grated rhizome of the wasabi plant. The wasabi has to be consumed within 15 minutes to enjoy the spicy condiment before it starts to lose its sharp flavor. After this timeframe, the wasabi begins to lose its freshness and intensity.
The chemical compound that makes real wasabi spicy is called allyl isothiocyanate. This ingredient is a colorless oil also responsible for the pungent taste of mustard and horseradish. Due to the common ingredient across these herbs, it’s sometimes difficult to tell the difference between real wasabi and fake wasabi that is comprised mainly of horseradish.
Wasabi plants are fussy about their weather conditions, but growing them in pots will allow you to move them around when needed. Remember that the wasabi plants need to be homed in deep pots and kept in rich, moist soil. Be patient with the wasabi plants, and you’ll be rewarded with fresh and intense wasabi spices that add new richness to your foods.