Across the world, there’s been an explosion of interest in Japanese ingredients, with chefs and bartenders infusing things like sake, dashi, miso and shochu into their culinary creations. Fresh wasabi is another ingredient that’s become highly prized, especially when you consider that much of the stuff that comes in mass-produced paste form is probably horseradish or mustard.
Pound for pound, wasabi is arguably the most expensive vegetable on the planet because of how it’s produced and the demand for getting hands on the genuine article. Down in the South-East of England, The Wasabi Company has made a name for itself by growing fresh wasabi and championing it across the globe.
From humble beginnings
The beginnings of The Wasabi Company can be traced back to Jon Old, whose family had grown watercress in Dorset and Hampshire farms since the 1850s. Then in 2010, a chef visiting one of the farms mentioned how the crop was being grown in similar conditions to wasabi in Japan and that set the team off on a path they would never turn back from.
The climate in South-East England is ideal for the production of wasabi, which means lots of rain and little sunlight. Crops are grown in repurposed Victorian gravel waterbeds and have access to natural spring water that helps them grow.
The kind of product that The Wasabi Company produces is Sawa wasabi, which is grown in water and is of the highest quality. This is different from the Oka wasabi that’s grown in soil and is used for mass production.
Preparing wasabi the right way
The team were kind enough to send over a wasabi kit, which included a fresh wasabi rhizome, specialised grater and brush. The pack came with instructions on how to properly prepare the rhizome and the effects really are magical.
The rhizome must be grated in a circular motion and the paste releases its true flavour after 2 – 5 minutes. The sharp heat and familiar characteristics only last for between 20 – 30 minutes, highlighting the ephemeral nature of wasabi and the spirit of Japan in general.
The rhizome proved to be extremely versatile. I had a lot of fun experimenting with a couple of different recipes and used it as a spread and to provide some extra kick for some wasabi macaroni and cheese.
As manager Nick Russell stated in an interview, there’s a reason why wasabi can only truly be experienced like this instead of in a packet.
“Grating it forces the enzymes inside the rhizome to combine, which creates all the flavour and taste. But they also create something else called isothiocyanates, or ITCs, and that help break down the response to cancer cells, so it helps slow down the blood supply to cancer cells, so theoretically, it can help combat cancer growth.”
The Wasabi Company’s dedication to its craft has elevated wasabi in the UK and beyond. Be sure to check out the online store for new products and offers!