Why Wasabi?

Wasabia japonica is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family that includes broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, cabbage and watercress. Cruciferous vegetables are rich in many nutrients, including carotenoids like beta carotene and lutein. These vegetables also contain vitamins C, E and K, folate and minerals and are a good source of fiber.

There are numerous health and lifestyle benefits associated with using wasabi. Its many properties include:

  • Anti-microbial
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-fungal
  • Anti-platelet aggregation
  • Anti-asthmatic
  • Chemo-protective

Wasabi Health Benefits

  • Cruciferous vegetables are one of the most studied food groups with over 600 studies completed to date. These vegetables are characterized by their high content of stable, inactive compounds called glucosinolates.
  • Glucosinolate compounds are chemically stable as long as they are separated within the sub-cell compartments of the plant. When the cell wall is broken – through processing or chewing – and those compounds come in contact with an enzyme called myrosinase, biologically-active compounds called isothiocyanates or (ITC’s) are formed.
  • Those ITC’s provide powerful, health-boosting benefits that help our bodies maintain optimum function and overall wellness. The ITC’s provide nutrient support for several of our internal systems including immune, inflammation, hormonal, detoxification and anti-oxidant.
  • Studies have shown that the consumption of cruciferous vegetables protects against cancer more effectively than the total intake of fruits and vegetables. These studies have also shown that the ITC’s found in wasabi offer some protection against cancer through a number of mechanisms, including promoting the elimination of potential carcinogens from the body and by enhancing the transcription of tumor suppressor proteins.

Rooted in History

Wasabi is one of the oldest traditional Japanese herbs, with historical records indicating it’s been cultivated for hundreds of years. Excavations of archeological remains have revealed that Japanese people ate wasabi as early as the Jōmon period, which was around 14,000 to 400 BC. Having discovered its anthelmintic and sterilization effects, they ate small, rooted-water wasabi that grew in nearby mountain streams as medicine.

One of the first mentions of wasabi is found in one of the oldest medical encyclopedia classics, the Honzo-Wamyo of Sukahito Fukae, dating all the way back to 918 AD. During the mid-Ashikaga Era (1338 to 1573), wasabi became a ground condiment served with raw fish preparations. Wasabi was also reserved for consumption by royalty.

Traditional Wasabi Uses

Wasabi was used in Japanese folk medicine to increase appetite and treat stomach disorders. It’s also been used to clear mucous from the lungs and as a topical treatment against rheumatism and neuralgia. Wasabi use can also be found in Kampo medicine, practiced in Japan but based on ancient Chinese medicine.

In traditional Japanese cuisine, wasabi is prepared by grating fresh wasabi rhizome using a sharkskin grater.

 

 

Growing Wasabi

While wasabi has been traditionally grown outdoors for centuries, it is now being grown hydroponically in greenhouses. The plant is difficult to grow and crop failures are common which is why there are several advantages to greenhouse-grown wasabi.

  • Growing variables such as heat, humidity, CO2 levels, shade, PH, nutrients and water temperature are all regulated, helping to maintain an ideal environment for wasabi crops.
  • Security is tightly controlled: access is restricted to a select group of key employees who must follow strict protocols to ensure the crop remains secure.
  • A greenhouse crop is not subject to extremes in weather, which can damage or destroy wasabi plants.
  • In a greenhouse, it’s easier to control pests which are attracted to and often attack vegetable crops. By implementing an Integrated Pest Management program, good insects are used to control the pests which would otherwise harm the wasabi plants.
  • Each plant is fed water and nutrients through individual drippers. This ensures the right amount of water and nutrients are given at the right time. The method also saves water when compared to conventional growing systems.
  • Growing wasabi in a greenhouse means it can be grown all year long. This helps secure a continuous supply of the plant will be on hand to meet growing demand.
  • Greenhouses are typically built on land that’s been deemed unsuitable for field production. This ensures that the land is still used while also reducing the environmental footprint.