Wasabi is a Japanese condiment that has become very popular worldwide. Its popularity is due to its unique flavor and heat level. In Japan, wasabi is considered a luxury food because of its high price tag.
However, you may be wondering why wasabi is so expensive.
Well, in this article, we intend to uncover why wasabi is so expensive (see also ‘How To Grow Wasabi‘). So if you want to find out the answer, keep on reading!
What Is Wasabi?
Wasabi (Brassica rapa) is an annual herbaceous plant with long, narrow leaves. It grows up to 2 meters tall. The leaves are usually green but they can also be white or purple.
The flowers have five petals. They grow in clusters on the stem. The flower buds look like miniature cauliflowers. When it blooms, it produces small yellowish-green fruits called pods.
These pods contain tiny seeds. The taste of wasabi depends on the variety of Brassica rapa. There are two main varieties of wasabi: “Hakusai” and “Kanpyo”.
Both of them have different flavors. Hakusai wasabi tastes sweeter than Kanpyo, but Kanpyo is much spicier.
Most Wasabi Is Fake
When you think of wasabi, you immediately think of it as a kind of green paste that you have seen alongside sushi (see also ‘Do You Eat Sushi With Your Hands?‘). This green paste is typically spicy, but this is not real wasabi.
The green paste you associate with wasabi is a mixture of a couple of different ingredients. Often they include soybean oil, sweetener, horseradish, and maybe 1% of real wasabi.
According to research that has been carried out, 90% of the time that you think you are eating wasabi, you are really just eating green-dyed horseradish. The main way to tell is the spice level of the wasabi.
The spice from fresh wasabi comes from a chemical reaction at the plant’s cellular level. This happens when you either paste or grate the plant.
The hottest fresh wasabi will be after 5 minutes of grating or pasting, but the spice will be completely gone after 30 minutes. Compared to the green-dyed horseradish that you have been eating that never loses its spice.
This is another way to tell the difference between fresh and fake wasabi.
Real Wasabi Is Rare
As we have discovered, we have been eating fake wasabi for years, Yet real wasabi is really rare, thus making it very expensive. Around 2.2 pounds or 1 kilogram of wasabi could set you back around $250. That is a lot of money for such a small amount of product.
Another reason why real wasabi is so rare is that the plant that grows it is extremely difficult to grow. It is actually seen as one of the most difficult plants you could attempt to grow.
The requirements have to be just right, and you have to give it a lot of attention and care.
The Wasabi Company is the first European wasabi farm that first set out growing watercress. However, they learned that wasabi requires very similar growing requirements to watercress.
Eventually, they started to grow wasabi. A couple of companies in North America are also growing real wasabi, but using greenhouses for crop control.
However, the harvesting and processing of wasabi have to be done by hand. This then adds to the time frame of creating wasabi, and you need to pay all the workers, which also adds to the price of the wasabi.
The process of growing wasabi takes about three years before you get your first harvest. You need to start by planting the seedlings into the soil. Then you need to water them regularly. After that, you will need to fertilize them every week.
Once the plant reaches maturity, you will need to cut off all the leaves from the top of the plant. This way you will encourage more growth. Next, you will need to wait until the plant starts producing seeds.
At this point, you will need to remove the whole plant from the ground. Now you will need to dry the plant and then grind it into powder.
One of the few places that you see wasabi growing naturally in long Japanese mountain streams. As mentioned above, these plants require very specific conditions for them to be able to grow and survive properly. They want:
- Rocky soil,
- Constant spring water,
- The temperature to be around 46 to 68 Fahrenheit all year.
Health Benefits Of Wasabi
Wasabi contains a compound called perilla oil, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. This makes it great for your body, especially your brain!
It helps boost immunity and fight inflammation. It also protects your heart, and can even help prevent some types of cancers. Some people believe that it can help with your immunity and any inflammatory issues you may have.
Studies are still being carried out to find out how good wasabi is for your health. However, if you do try it, you should know that it may not work for everyone.
If you are pregnant or have an autoimmune disease, you might want to avoid wasabi. Also, people who have ulcers or stomach problems might not like wasabi, as it may disagree with them.
How To Eat Wasabi
You can use wasabi in many ways. One of the best ways is to add it to sushi (see also ‘Can Sushi Be Cooked?‘). It gives the sushi a nice spicy kick. Another way to use it is to mix it with soy sauce and vinegar. You can also put it on rice or noodles.
Or you can make a salad dressing that includes wasabi. A lot of Japanese dishes will call for you to use wasabi.
When buying wasabi, you should look for the freshest possible product. Look for wasabi that has been grown organically. It should also be stored in the refrigerator, so it does not lose its flavor.
Wasabi is one of those foods that you either love or hate. However, you may be surprised that you have not been eating real wasabi when eating your sushi.
This is because real wasabi is very expensive. The reason for it having such a high price tag is because the plant to grow wasabi is very difficult to grow.
Alongside that, the process to make it is very complex and precise, which means it takes time and people who all need to be paid. Also, there is now a very high demand for wasabi’s Japanese cuisine is becoming more popular.
As a result, getting your hands on real wasabi is not only difficult, but will cost you a lot of money as well.