You may be surprised to learn that the pungent green paste that you pair with your beloved maki rolls and pickled ginger is far from the real deal. What you’re consuming is likely to consist of predominantly western horseradish than wasabi. In fact, it’s likely that in your lifetime, you’ll sadly never have the luxury of tasting the real deal. Why?
True wasabi is considered the most difficult plant to cultivate.
More formally known as wasabia japonica, the plant’s origins are deep within the mountainous regions of Japan. Thus, it’s these tricky conditions that must be mimicked should one attempt to grow it elsewhere. In other words, it takes much more than a Monty Don-esque green thumb to grow the stuff, let alone to do so on a commercial scale.
The soil on which the crop is grown is required to be at an optimal level of moistness. That is, not too wet and not too dry, but somewhere meticulous in the middle. The soil it’s grown in must be rocky with the perfectly precise pH and the surrounding temperature must fall within the 46-68 Fahrenheit range. The cherry on top? All of these conditions must be maintained all year round and anything other than these conditions can easily result in the wipe out of the entire crop.
We’ll stop there with climate technicalities but you get the idea; it’s a high maintenance crop that represents the complete antithesis of the ‘indirect sunlight’ instructions that we're used to receiving for our beloved house plants.
Wasabi can only be cultivated by hand.
Back to basics; wasabi can only be cultivated by hand! A manual and time consuming process; it’s safe to say that the responsibilities go beyond a regular 9-5 job. It’s no wonder that so few are up to the task.
Growing wasabi can take up to three years.
Finally, it can take wasabi up to three entire years to become mature and therefore, suitable for trade. That’s three years of ensuring zero divergence from its optimal growth conditions. Funnily enough, once it’s on our plates, real wasabi degrades at a rapid rate. When grated, the integrity of its flavour diminishes within around twenty minutes. In paste form, this is reduced to a mere five minutes!
Essentially, growing real wasabi requires an unfounded degree of effort and devotion, and its cost represents this. Research shows that just a kilogram of wasabi can cost up to a whopping 300 USD!
Hence, it's no surprise that real wasabi commands such a hefty price tag. The distinctly precise climate it requires, tied in with the fact that it can only be grown by hand, and that it takes numerous years to do so, certainly warrants its cost. We can only assume that it’s unique taste is worth the price tag but if you’ve ever had the fortune of trying the real deal, write in and let us know! We’d love to hear about your experience.