Before sushi exploded from an authentic homemade Japanese favourite to a staple in the diet of the western-world, Wasabi was a little known, edible member of the Brassica family whose sinus-ripping, fiery flavour added a zing to an otherwise bland diet of rice and fish. Found in the river valleys of Japan, it grows along stream beds and the stem is grated to make the paste we all know and love.
HERE’S TEN FUN FACTS ABOUT WASABI:
- Like all good things, it improves with age, taking two years to fully mature.
- It is often substituted with horseradish or mustard due to being expensive and difficult to grow outside of Japan.
- It loses it’s flavour only 15 minutes after grating, which is why the Japanese prefer to spread the paste between the rice and fish rather than leaving it in a side dish to mix with soy sauce.
- Contains AIT which has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, helping prevent food poisoning.
- Studies have shown wasabi may suppress some of the genes leading to stomach cancer.
- It is recognised by receptors in the body in the same way which we detect smoke and burns and in 2011 the chemistry nobel prize was awarded to researchers who used wasabi vapour as a smoke alarm for people with hearing impairments.
- It was first used for its medicinal properties in 918 AD, known as wild ginger.
- Wasabi has anti-inflammatory properties which help control symptoms of hay fever and asthma.
- It has anti-platelet effects which could help reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke.
- Japanese farmers will dump chicken manure upstream from their wasabi farms to aid growth and germination.
Photo credits: Pintrest, wasabicrop.blog