Wasabi – description of the spice. Health benefits and harms


All we know about wasabi is that it has a tangy taste, green color and is an invariable companion of Japanese cuisine. We are used to seeing it on our table in the company of soy sauce and ginger, and we do not often ask ourselves: where did this tradition come from – to serve this spice with sushi and rolls? Sushi Papa decided to learn more about the origins of wasabi and share his story with you.

Wasabia japonica is a perennial herb that grows to a height of 45 centimeters. The rhizome of the plant is used as a spice – a light green thick root. This spice is considered real (honwasabi) and can only be found in Japan.

There it grows in special conditions: in running water and at a temperature of 10-17 degrees. Honwasabi grows slowly – the root lengthens by about 3 cm per year. That is why it is quite expensive. But not a single Japanese dish is complete without this spice, so an alternative available to everyone was found in the wasabi daikon root paste.

Wasabi – description of the spice. Health benefits and harms

The vegetable was brought to Japan from Europe. Daikon wasabi is grown in vegetable gardens, therefore, given the ease of cultivation, daikon horseradish wasabi is the most widespread. Both taste and pungency of these plants are almost the same, but true chefs prefer to work exclusively with honwasabi, as they find its taste brighter.

Taste and aroma

Powder: light yellowish powder with a slight greenish tint. It tastes like a bitter powder with a light refreshing aftertaste.

Powdered: a thick, bright green sauce with a pungent rich aroma, very hot on the palate.

History: Wasabi as a Disinfection Method

The history of wasabi dates back to around the 14th century. Legend has it that an enterprising farmer discovered a strange plant in the mountains. Open to everything new and unknown, the farmer tried this plant and realized that he had stumbled upon a gold mine.

He decided that the root of this plant would be an excellent gift for the future shogun (the right hand of the emperor). And he was right. The shogun liked the gift so much that after a while wasabi became popular throughout Japan.

However, it was used not as a seasoning for food, but as a way to disinfect raw fish. At that time, the Japanese believed that wasabi root was antiseptic and helped to get rid of various parasites and unwanted bacteria.

How original wasabi is grown

Wasabi – description of the spice. Health benefits and harms

Even in Japan, honwasabi or “real wasabi” is not cheap. This is due to the very difficult conditions for its cultivation. First, this whimsical plant ripens for about 4 years.

Secondly, this plant grows only in mountainous areas, in rocky soil. A prerequisite for it is the presence of running cold water flowing from the mountains, and the temperature is not higher than 15-17 degrees.

It is assembled only by hand to avoid even the slightest mechanical damage. After it is dried and rubbed on a special shark skin grater. In Japanese restaurants, a standard wasabi ball will cost a visitor at least $ 5.

Wasabi that we are used to

Already in the twentieth century, when the love for Japanese cuisine captured the whole of Europe, it became clear that it would be impossible to use real spice: it is catastrophically unprofitable to import it into Europe, and to grow it on your own is impossible.

But inventive Europeans very quickly found a way out of the situation: they grew their own wasabi, which they called wasabi daikon.

Wasabi daikon

Wasabi daikon is nothing more than one of the varieties of horseradish, the taste of which is very close to that of real wasabi. But only the wasabi daikon is much less whimsical in the ripening process, which allows it to be grown in any conditions on a production scale.

Recently, this type of spice has become widespread even in Japan and has almost supplanted real wasabi from the menu of Japanese restaurants, although it was introduced there quite recently.

What for is wasabi?

Today wasabi on our table is a tribute to the tradition of Japanese cuisine. Spice can be added to soy sauce or directly on rolls or sushi. This spicy seasoning adds piquancy and richness to rolls and sushi, although it is not necessary at all.

Wasabi – description of the spice. Health benefits and harms

Today, wasabi is no longer considered something unusual and outlandish. This popular seasoning is increasingly used not only in Japanese cuisine, but also for cooking meat, vegetables and even ice cream.

Unusual properties

Wasabi has one more remarkable property. By increasing blood flow, this natural aphrodisiac enhances libido, especially in women.

Cooking applications

National cuisines: Japanese, Asian
Classic dishes: rolls, sushi, sushimi and other Japanese cuisine

Usage: Honwasabi is an almost impossible pleasure. Wasabi daikon is used all over the world, from which powder, paste and tablets are now made.
Application: fish, rice, vegetables, meat, seafood

Application in medicine

Has a beneficial effect on:

  • The digestive system, destroying mold and parasites;
  • Teeth, preventing the development of caries;
  • It helps with inflammation with an antibacterial effect. It should be borne in mind that all the beneficial properties of wasabi relate to a paste made from honwasabi root.

The benefits

Wasabi – description of the spice. Health benefits and harms

The beneficial properties of the right wasabi growing in the historical homeland are unique. Thanks to isothiocyanates, the root has an antibacterial effect on the body, successfully coping with pathogenic bacteria.

Wasabi is an excellent antidote, neutralizing food poisoning. It was for this ability that he became an obligatory component of freshly caught fish dishes, minimizing the possible negative consequences of its use.

Wasabi works quickly, almost immediately. Due to the work of anticoagulants, the root improves blood flow, which reduces the risk of blood clots. This property of spice is invaluable in treating the effects of a heart attack.

Due to the harsh aromas, wasabi is good for sinus diseases, clearing the nasopharynx and making breathing easier. For asthmatics and those suffering from anemia, this root is also curative. This spice is credited with another useful property – the ability to resist the development of cancer cells.

The root has a depressing effect on existing malignant formations and does not allow them to grow, forming new ones. The fruit owes such a valuable property to the powerful antioxidant glutathione.

Harm and contraindications

Like most dishes, wasabi has its drawbacks. Abuse of this seasoning can lead to increased blood pressure, hypertensive patients should take this effect into account and limit themselves to its use.

In case of hepatitis, cholecystitis, pancreatitis, stomach ulcers and disturbances in the work of the intestines, it is in principle forbidden to eat spicy foods, so the amount of wasabi eaten should be reduced to a minimum. Otherwise, the harm may exceed the intended benefit.

3 interesting facts

Wasabi – description of the spice. Health benefits and harms

Wasabi is a cabbage

This plant belongs to the cabbage family, which also includes horseradish and mustard. This spice is often called Japanese horseradish, but this is wrong: horseradish is a different plant.

Although the part of the plant that grows underwater looks like a root vegetable, it is actually the stem.

Real wasabi is very healthy

Despite the fact that wasabi is eaten in small portions, there is still a benefit in this product. It is known for its effectiveness against tooth decay, inflammation and harmful microbes, contains potassium, calcium, vitamin C and isothiocyanates – organic compounds that mitigate the effects of allergies, asthma, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

Real wasabi is a perishable food

After cooking spicy pasta, it loses its flavor in about 15 minutes if not covered.

Usually this paste is made using “sprinkle”, or a shark skin grater, which resembles sandpaper in texture. Since the flavor is quickly lost, it is best to grate the wasabi as needed.

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