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International Wasabi Day: October 1st

by Preston Brady III, Herbscapes.com 2023

I woke up this morning and decided today, October 1st will be International Wasabi Day. I know it’s a little late notice but keep it in mind for next year and those following. I found there is an International Sushi Day – June 18th, and it includes the fact that wasabi is the most popular condiment for sushi, but I think it’s time for wasabi to have it’s own day. What prompted this “epiphany?” I received my box of 10 authentic wasabi rhizomes yesterday from Oregon Coast Wasabi. You may have read my previous post in which I out all the restaurants serving faux wasabi, i.e. horseradish food-colored green. It is estimated that 99% of “wasabi” served in the world, including Japan, is not actually wasabi. I definitely do not want to malign horseradish – it’s a root in it’s own class and I have a few growing in a large pot in the garden. Wasabi is a whole different game though. Real wasabi should be grated at your table and consumed right away because it loses it’s magic in less than a half an hour. Authentic wasabi is not burning hot. There should be a little fire in the aftertaste, meaning a few seconds or so after you consume it.

So why is real wasabi so hard to find? It can be difficult to grow. But I am counting on it not having to be difficult, if you research and grow it under the right conditions. It may surprise you there is some misinformation on the Internet about wasabi. I saw an article today that came up in the top results stating you can’t grow wasabi in the United States. Don’t tell that to Oregon Coast Wasabi and a few other growers here, please. Common mistakes I am going to plan to avoid: do not expose the plant to direct sunlight. This is probably one of the most common mistakes. It needs shade. Also, plant in well drained soil so you don’t kill the roots.

Don’t allow wasabi to freeze. This is why I will plant in large containers and in my zone 8b-9a when it freezes for hopefully not more than a few days here and there, I will bring the plants into the greenhouse.

Wild temperature fluctuations can kill wasabi. This may be the most common reason of crop failures and the rarity of real wasabi. There are a few large growers in the U.S. and one of them has a trademarked secret which he shares, for a price, with other growers. I am going to guess that since he does grow the wasabi in a number of greenhouses, he has them climate-controlled so it doesn’t get too cold and probably even more important it doesn’t get too hot. I believe too hot will wilt and kill wasabi. While my greenhouse is not exactly climate-controlled, it does have a source of heat in the winter, and a fan for cooling in the summer with an exhaust fan that pull out the heat when the temperature reaches a certain level – in the high eighties. What is the perfect temperature? Apparently that is a trademarked secret but I am going to wager between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit . Can I maintain those conditions for the ten shoots I purchased? Using the greenhouse I believe I can. As it is getting cooler by the day in my zone I can leave them outside in the shade for the time being. Since it’s International Wasabi Day I will plant my 10 roots today and follow-up with progress in future posts.

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