The Wasabi Guide: Japan’s Superfood Condiment

If you’ve ever eaten sushi, you know about wasabi. It’s green and sort of spicy, the kind of spicy that burns through the nose. Some call it Japanese horseradish because of that.
It dawned on me that after many years in Japan, I knew little about this condiment. I mean, was it even a condiment? How’s it grown? Where does it come from? How much does fresh wasabi really cost?
I had a lot of questions.

I headed to DAIO WASABI FARM in Nagano prefecture to find all the answers.
Not only do they grow fresh wasabi, it’s one of the best places in the world to cultivate it and try it fresh.
Oh, and the farm was also a location in a Kurosawa film so that sealed the deal for me to visit.

wasabi farm

Home sweet home. This is where wasabi resides in Japan.

Wasabi needs a cool place with constant fresh water.
This variety of wasabi is called “hon wasabi” is used most commonly with sushi. It’s also popular with foods like steak and washoku dishes.
The Daio Wasabi Farm run along the riverbanks. Nagano is best not just because of its cool climate year round, but for the fresh water that melts from the Japanese alps surrounding it. The water is loaded with mineral which make for the perfect wasabi root.

And yes! It is a root!

wasabiroot

I plucked it from the soil like a carrot. Unlike a carrot, they are relatively loose in the ground and pulling one out is quite easy.

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What I saw was not the wasabi I’ve seen before. It was just a mass of green sprouts and soil! Where’s the wasabi?
It’s important to note that the green leaves from the wasabi root are also popular in cooking. They have a strong bitter taste and most likely full of vitamins.

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With a strong flowing stream flooding the wasabi plants, I washed away the soil. Still no wasabi!

wasabi plant

I pulled off some of the green sprouts from the center and sure enough, there it was. Wasabi!
The root is what’s important.
It takes 18 months for it to grow. That is the main reason each roots is expensive. That and the fact that it can’t grow just anywhere. For good tasting wasabi, the climate and conditions must be perfect.

fresh wasabi

After pulling the green sprouts away, the wasabi root shape was more obvious.

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I don’t recommend eating it like a carrot!
It’s pretty strong and it’s also a waste since grating it releases more of the flavor.
There are metal graters and shark skin graters. The shark skin ones are very traditional and I happened to have one handy along with a pearing knife.
As soon as I cut it, I could make out the strong smell.

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wasabi10

Grating it released a lot more of the gases and odor. As a fan of good sushi, its a very pleasing smell.
The experience as a whole was quite impressive. The sound of the flowing stream, the cool air under the canopy and the smell of soil and fresh plant awoke my senses to a higher level.

freshly grated wasabi

The grated wasabi is not the neon green we see at many sushi shops, especially the cheap ones. The processed wasabi has added color and ingredients.
This is pure, 100% fresh wasabi from the best place to grow it on earth!

It didn’t taste as strong as I thought it would, but it was strong nonetheless.
The freshness is what struck me. Japanese food is best served fresh, and this coupled with sushi is a total delight for the senses.

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The price depends on the size.
The bigger the wasabi, the better it tastes.

wasabiprice

 

The is no was to determine the size of a root before it’s pulled.
Finding a big one is like finding a diamond or striking gold!

Daio Wasabi Farm is quite big and I can only imagine the diamonds that await pulling in this field!
If you come to Japan and want to eat sushi, I recommend asking to grate your own wasabi or making sure it’s fresh.

Daio Wasabi Farm is big
Daio Wasabi Farm is big

Is wasabi a SUPERFOOD?

The answers are incomplete but I learned that it is loaded with Vitamin C in very high levels.
It’s also 100% organic and grown in a pristine enviornment.
If you go by the power it has when eaten, I suppose you can also consider it super!

URL: http://www.daiowasabi.co.jp/ (Japanese only)

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