Image by Marco Verch (CC BY 2.0)

For all the food lovers out there, trying sushi is a must. Maybe some of them are not fond of raw meat, but most definitely, when they try it, they have at least one surprise: wasabi. It is true that not all sushi types have this flavor added to their rich taste, but, at some point, you get to taste it. 

And, let me tell you, you will be surprised. It is always fun to try new flavors and, if you are a hot spicy food lover, you will definitely love it.

What is wasabi?

Wasabi is a Japanese plant that is used to add a hot taste that a lot of people enjoy. Its taste is similar to horseradish, that is why it is also called the Japanese horseradish. It comes from the same family as mustard but, unlike with mustard production, the wasabi paste that people eat is made from rhizomes and not from the seeds of the plant.

You can buy wasabi as a powder made from the Japanese horseradish rhizome and you can also buy it as a paste that is commercialized in a tube that resembles a toothpaste tube. In some restaurants, chefs prepare it directly out of the plant’s rhizome, using a grater. 

After they grate it, they prepare a paste that is ‘active’ for only 15 minutes while exposed to air. After that, it loses its spicy flavor. 

The taste

Wasabi’s taste is very interesting. You already know that when you eat food, your taste buds are involved in making their magic and embarking you on an amazing journey of discovery. However, wasabi is felt mostly with your nose. It stimulates the nose more than the tongue.

It is considered to have a pungent smell. Pungency is a condition that some aliments have which involves such a strong flavor that can they sometimes make you feel uncomfortable. The term is usually used for hot foods like chili peppers, hot mustard, and curry.

Some interesting chemistry facts

Some researchers wanted to study the composition of wasabi and they concluded that it has antibacterial properties. 

Also, you should know that wasabi does not have a similar composition to that of chili peppers and the burning sensation you get while eating it is not oil-based. This has two consequences: the hot sensation does not last that long and it’s no use to drink milk to get rid of it. Food and fluids will alleviate the pain.

As we have previously said, the hot sensation is felt at first in the nose and can hurt badly if you consume it in large amounts. That is why sniffing wasabi can be helpful to get you in an awaken state. It has the same effect you get while smelling salts.

Some researchers even investigated the possibilities of using wasabi to alert deaf people when there is a fire. While sleeping, deaf people woke up in 10 seconds when exposed to the smell of wasabi.

Cultivating wasabi

Wasabi is usually cultivated in Japan. However, wasabi consumption is so widespread that Japan can not handle the need, so some companies around the world have started cultivating it. In Europe, states like Iceland, the UK, Hungary, and the Netherlands are proud to be known as wasabi providers. In the US, wasabi is cultivated mostly in Oregon.

You can try to cultivate it in your home garden, but you have to use some insecticides for your vegetable garden if you want to have productive wasabi crops.

To prepare it yourself it is best to use a grater made of a metal called oroshigane so that you prevent oxidation..