One of the plants my sushi-loving kids are excited about is wasabi. Yes, real wasabi. Not horseradish with green food coloring. Because if you didn’t know, the vast, vast majority of wasabi products you buy are not actually real wasabi at all. Primarily, this is because of the difficulty in mass farming the plant. It needs full shade, which means you can’t easily have a field full of plants and shade coverings would be essential. Second, they cannot be mechanically harvested due to how they grow and propagate. And third, wasabi cannot easily be processed into other products — like wasabi paste for sushi — because it begins to lose its flavor within fifteen minutes after grinding.
Basically, if you want real wasabi, it needs to be ground fresh at your table. Otherwise, you’re eating colored horseradish, not real wasabi.
Or, in this case, grow it yourself.
Which has added benefits. Because not only the rhizome is edible, though that’s the part most well-known for its role on a sushi plate, but also the leaves and stems are edible, as well. They are rumored to add a nice spice to salads or stir-frys. I can’t wait to find out.
Before my research, I was unaware that apparently wasabi is considered one of the harder plants to grow. It is grown primarily in one location in Japan where it is farmed in a crystal-clear running stream with yards and yards of shade-cloth covering the rows of carefully depth-calibrated gravel beds and a never-ending supply of natural spring water. When I learned this, my head started spinning with ideas on how to build a tilted grow bed to supply a running stream of water circulated through a nice biological filter until it was crystal clear….
Then I learned wasabi will also grow in plain soil and doesn’t need such elaborate contrivances. Whew! Good news!
First, as I mentioned, you need full shade — not a problem. Most of my yard is shade and I have inside, if nothing else.
Second, it needs to be consistently wet, but not in standing water. This also should not be a problem, as I just have to keep it in a well draining pot and water often.
Marvelous! Let’s get going!
So I ordered three plants from The Wasabi Store. Like most bare-root plants, they arrived looking a bit sad. All roots and snipped-short stems. I planted them immediately and gave them a good watering.
Yes, there really are three in there. The other one had really short-snipped stems.
The plant with the single tiny leaf perked up almost immediately, making me feel good. I placed them under one of my grow lamps, but sort of off to the side and on the floor a fair distance away from the hanging light. In short, I wanted them to get the full-spectrum light from the lamp, but at a more reduced level than the sun-loving plants were getting. A week later, it seems to be working!
The one tiny leaf has grown into a nice-sized heart and the plant is starting another. The invisible plant has poked its own leaf into the air and all three plants have a nice deep green color (more visible in real life than in the purple tint the grow light makes on camera). When summer comes, I’ll put it outside on my back deck — the one currently rotting away because of the persistent covering of leaves I can’t stay ahead of and the constant damp they hold with the lack of sunlight to dry them. Should be perfect for the wasabi, even if it isn’t for wooden deck boards. With luck, my little plants will create a few pups — they propagate via offshoots, not seed — and I can expand my little collection.
I may not even have to bring these plants in for next winter. Apparently they tolerant a mild freeze just fine. They may wilt a bit when its really cold, but then bounce back. On the other hand, they do not like heat at all (see the section on cold tolerance). So perhaps, wasabi will become my indoor plant when everything else is outside, and my outdoor plant when everything else comes in.
We shall see.
Until then, Happy Homesteading!
And try some wasabi!