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Wasabia japonica 4.JPG
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Brassicales
Family: Brassicaceae
Genus: Eutrema
E. japonicum
Binomial name
Eutrema japonicum
  • Wasabia japonica
  • Alliaria wasabi
  • Cochlearia wasabi
  • Eutrema koreanum
  • Eutrema okinosimense
  • Eutrema wasabi
  • Lunaria japonica
  • Wasabia pungens
  • Wasabia wasabi

Wasabi (Japanese ワサビ, わさび or 山葵 ; Eutrema japonicum or Wasabia japonica) [1] or Japanese horseradish [2] is a plant of the Brassicaceae family, which also includes horseradish and mustard in other genera. A paste made from its ground rhizomes is used as a pungent condiment for sushi and other foods. It is similar in taste to hot mustard or horseradish rather than chili peppers in that it stimulates the nose more than the tongue.

Brassicaceae family of plants

Brassicaceae or Cruciferae is a medium-sized and economically important family of flowering plants commonly known as the mustards, the crucifers, or the cabbage family. Most are herbaceous plants, some shrubs, with simple, although sometimes deeply incised, alternatingly set leaves without stipules or in leaf rosettes, with terminal inflorescences without bracts, containing flowers with four free sepals, four free alternating petals, two short and four longer free stamens, and a fruit with seeds in rows, divided by a thin wall.

Horseradish species of plant

Horseradish is a perennial plant of the family Brassicaceae. It is a root vegetable used as a spice and prepared as a condiment.

Mustard plant plants used for mustard

Mustard plant is a plant species in the genera Brassica and Sinapis in the family Brassicaceae. Mustard seed is used as a spice. Grinding and mixing the seeds with water, vinegar, or other liquids creates the yellow condiment known as prepared mustard. The seeds can also be pressed to make mustard oil, and the edible leaves can be eaten as mustard greens.


The plant grows naturally along stream beds in mountain river valleys in Japan. The two main cultivars in the marketplace are E. japonicum 'Daruma' and 'Mazuma', but there are many others. [3] The oldest record of wasabi as a food dates to the 8th century CE. [4] The popularity of wasabi in English-speaking countries has tracked that of sushi, growing steadily starting in about 1980. [5]

Stream bed channel bottom of a stream, river, or creek

A stream bed or streambed is the channel bottom of a stream or river, the physical confine of the normal water flow. The lateral confines or channel margins are known as the stream banks or river banks, during all but flood stage. Under certain conditions a river can branch from one stream bed to multiple stream beds. A flood occurs when a stream overflows its banks and flows onto its flood plain. As a general rule, the bed is the part of the channel up to the normal water line, and the banks are that part above the normal water line. However, because water flow varies, this differentiation is subject to local interpretation. Usually, the bed is kept clear of terrestrial vegetation, whereas the banks are subjected to water flow only during unusual or perhaps infrequent high water stages and therefore might support vegetation some or much of the time.

Japan Country in East Asia

Japan is an island country in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies off the eastern coast of the Asian continent and stretches from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea in the south.

Cultivar plant or grouping of plants selected for desirable characteristics

A cultivar is an assemblage of plants selected for desirable characteristics that are maintained during propagation. More generally, a cultivar is the most basic classification category of cultivated plants in the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP). Most cultivars arose in cultivation, but a few are special selections from the wild.

Due to issues that limit the Japanese wasabi plant's mass cultivation and thus increase its price and decrease availability outside Japan, the western horseradish plant is generally used in place of the Japanese horseradish. This version is commonly referred to as "western wasabi" in Japan.


Wasabi is generally sold either as a rhizome [6] or stem, which must be very finely grated before use, as dried powder, or as a ready-to-use paste in tubes similar to toothpaste tubes. [7]

Rhizome modified subterranean stem of a plant

In botany and dendrology, a rhizome is a modified subterranean plant stem that sends out roots and shoots from its nodes. Rhizomes are also called creeping rootstalks or just rootstalks. Rhizomes develop from axillary buds and grow horizontally. The rhizome also retains the ability to allow new shoots to grow upwards.

Toothpaste paste or gel dentifrice used to clean and maintain the health of teeth

Toothpaste is a paste or gel dentifrice used with a toothbrush to clean and maintain the aesthetics and health of teeth. Toothpaste is used to promote oral hygiene: it is an abrasive that aids in removing dental plaque and food from the teeth, assists in suppressing halitosis, and delivers active ingredients to help prevent tooth decay and gum disease (gingivitis). Salt and sodium bicarbonate are among materials that can be substituted for commercial toothpaste. Large amounts of swallowed toothpaste can be toxic.

The part used for wasabi paste is variously characterized as a rhizome, [8] [9] a stem, [10] [11] or the "rhizome plus the base part of the stem". [12]

Plant stem One of two main structural axes of a vascular plant (together with the root), that supports leaves, flowers and fruits, transports fluids between the roots and the shoots in the xylem and phloem, stores nutrients and produces new living tissue

A stem is one of two main structural axes of a vascular plant, the other being the root. The stem is normally divided into nodes and internodes:

In some high-end restaurants, the paste is prepared when the customer orders, and is made using a grater to grate the stem; once the paste is prepared, it loses flavor in 15 minutes if left uncovered. [13] In sushi preparation, chefs usually put the wasabi between the fish and the rice because covering wasabi until served preserves its flavor.

Sushi cooked rice combined with a slice of raw fish

Sushi is a Japanese dish of prepared vinegared rice, usually with some sugar and salt, accompanying a variety of ingredients, such as seafood, vegetables, and occasionally tropical fruits. Styles of sushi and its presentation vary widely, but the one key ingredient is "sushi rice", also referred to as shari (しゃり), or sumeshi (酢飯).

Fresh wasabi leaves can be eaten raw, having the spicy flavor of wasabi stems, but a common side effect is diarrhea.

Diarrhea Loose or liquid bowel movements

Diarrhea, also spelled diarrhoea, is the condition of having at least three loose, liquid, or watery bowel movements each day. It often lasts for a few days and can result in dehydration due to fluid loss. Signs of dehydration often begin with loss of the normal stretchiness of the skin and irritable behaviour. This can progress to decreased urination, loss of skin color, a fast heart rate, and a decrease in responsiveness as it becomes more severe. Loose but non-watery stools in babies who are exclusively breastfed, however, are normal.

Legumes (peanuts, soybeans, or peas) may be roasted or fried, then coated with wasabi powder mixed with sugar, salt, or oil and eaten as a crunchy snack. In Japan, it's called 'wasabi-mame'. 'mame' means bean.


Wasabi favours growing conditions that restrict its wide cultivation (among other things, it is quite intolerant of direct sunlight, requires an air temperature between 8°C (46°F) and 20 °C (70°F), and prefers high humidity in summer). This makes it impossible for growers to fully satisfy commercial demand, which makes wasabi quite expensive. [14] [15] [16] Therefore, outside Japan, it is rare to find real wasabi plants. Due to its high cost, a common substitute is a mixture of horseradish, mustard, starch, and green food coloring or spinach powder. [17] Often packages are labeled as wasabi while the ingredients do not actually include any part of the wasabi plant. The primary difference between the two is color, with Wasabi being naturally green. [18] In Japan, horseradish is referred to as seiyō wasabi(西洋わさび, "western wasabi"). [19] In the United States, true wasabi is generally found only at specialty grocers and high-end restaurants. [20]


The chemical in wasabi that provides for its initial pungency is the volatile compound allyl isothiocyanate, which is produced by hydrolysis of natural thioglucosides (conjugates of the sugar glucose, and sulfur-containing organic compounds); the hydrolysis reaction is catalyzed by myrosinase and occurs when the enzyme is released on cell rupture caused by maceration – e.g., grating – of the plant. [21] [22] [23] The same compound is responsible for the pungency of horseradish and mustard. Allyl isothiocyanate can also be released when the wasabi plants have been damaged, because it is being used as a defense mechanism. [24]

The unique flavor of wasabi is a result of complex chemical mixtures from the broken cells of the plant, including those resulting from the hydrolysis of thioglucosides into glucose and methylthioalkyl isothiocyanates: [13] [21] [22]

Research has shown that such isothiocyanates inhibit microbe growth, perhaps with implications for preserving food against spoilage and suppressing oral bacterial growth. [25]

Because the burning sensations of wasabi are not oil-based, they are short-lived compared to the effects of capsaicin in chili peppers, and are washed away with more food or liquid. The sensation is felt primarily in the nasal passage and can be quite painful depending on the amount consumed. Inhaling or sniffing wasabi vapor has an effect like smelling salts, a property exploited by researchers attempting to create a smoke alarm for the deaf. One deaf subject participating in a test of the prototype awoke within 10 seconds of wasabi vapor sprayed into his sleeping chamber. [26] The 2011 Ig Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to the researchers for determining the ideal density of airborne wasabi to wake people in the event of an emergency. [27]

Nutritional information

Wasabi grated to paste form Wasabi by No Grand Design.jpg
Wasabi grated to paste form

Wasabi is normally consumed in such small quantities that its nutritional value is negligible. The major constituents of raw wasabi root are carbohydrates (46%), water (32%), and fat (11%). [28]


A drawing of a wasabi plant, published in 1828 by Iwasaki Kanen Wasabi, Iwasaki Kanen 1828.jpg
A drawing of a wasabi plant, published in 1828 by Iwasaki Kanen

Few places are suitable for large-scale wasabi cultivation, and cultivation is difficult even in ideal conditions. In Japan, wasabi is cultivated mainly in these regions:

2016 wasabi production in Japan (metric tonnes) [29]
PrefectureCultivated in waterCultivated in soilTotal
2009 wasabi production in Japan (metric tonnes) [30]
PrefectureCultivated in waterCultivated in soilTotal
Shizuoka 295.1638.24.5232.3299.6870.51,170.1
Nagano 316.8739.27.216.8324.0756.01,080.0
Shimane 2.410.19.0113.011.4123.1134.5
Oita 0.58.994.00.5102.9103.4

There are also numerous artificial cultivation facilities as far north as Hokkaido and as far south as Kyushu. As the demand for real wasabi is higher than that which is able to be produced within Japan, Japan imports copious amounts of wasabi from the United States, Taiwan, Korea, Israel, Thailand and New Zealand. [31] In North America, Wasabia japonica is cultivated by a handful of small farmers and companies, the most prominent of which is King Wasabi, located in Forest Grove, Oregon. [32] In Europe, wasabi is grown commercially in Iceland [33] , the Netherlands, Hungary, and the UK. [34] [35]


Wasabi on a metal oroshigane grater WasabiOnOroshigane.jpg
Wasabi on a metal oroshigane grater

Wasabi is often grated with a metal oroshigane , but some prefer to use a more traditional tool made of dried sharkskin (fine skin on one side; coarse skin on the other). A hand-made grater with irregular shark teeth can also be used. If a shark-skin grater is unavailable, a ceramic cheese grate r can be an acceptable substitute. [36]

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Sashimi</i> Japanese dish

Sashimi is a Japanese delicacy consisting of fresh raw fish or meat sliced into thin pieces and often eaten with soy sauce.

Sauce liquid, creaming or semi-solid food served on or used in preparing other foods

In cooking, a sauce is a liquid, cream, or semi-solid food, served on or used in preparing other foods. Most sauces are not normally consumed by themselves; they add flavor, moisture, and visual appeal to a dish. Sauce is a French word taken from the Latin salsa, meaning salted. Possibly the oldest recorded European sauce is garum, the fish sauce used by the Ancient Greeks; while doubanjiang, the Chinese soy bean paste is mentioned in Rites of Zhou in the 3rd century BC.

Condiment Substance added to food to impart or enhance a flavor

A condiment is a spice, sauce, or preparation that is added to food, typically after cooking, to impart a specific flavor, to enhance the flavor, or to complement the dish. A table condiment or table sauce is more specifically a condiment that is served separately from the food and is added to taste by the diner.


Isothiocyanate is the chemical group –N=C=S, formed by substituting the oxygen in the isocyanate group with a sulfur. Many natural isothiocyanates from plants are produced by enzymatic conversion of metabolites called glucosinolates. These natural isothiocyanates, such as allyl isothiocyanate, are also known as mustard oils. An artificial isothiocyanate, phenyl isothiocyanate, is used for amino acid sequencing in the Edman degradation.

Mustard oil oil derived from plants

The term mustard oil is used for two different oils that are made from mustard seeds:

Allyl isothiocyanate chemical compound

Allyl isothiocyanate (AITC) is the organosulfur compound with the formula CH2CHCH2NCS. This colorless oil is responsible for the pungent taste of mustard, radish, horseradish, and wasabi. This pungency and the lachrymatory effect of AITC are mediated through the TRPA1 and TRPV1 ion channels. It is slightly soluble in water, but more soluble in most organic solvents.

Dipping sauce

A dip or dipping sauce is a common condiment for many types of food. Dips are used to add flavor or texture to a food, such as pita bread, dumplings, crackers, cut-up raw vegetables, fruits, seafood, cubed pieces of meat and cheese, potato chips, tortilla chips, falafel, and sometimes even whole sandwiches in the case of au jus. Unlike other sauces, instead of applying the sauce to the food, the food is typically put, dipped, or added into the dipping sauce.

<i>Cryptotaenia</i> genus of plants

Cryptotaenia, also honewort, is a genus of herbaceous perennial plants, native to North America, Africa, and eastern Asia, growing wild in moist, shady places.


Yuzukoshō is a type of Japanese seasoning. It is a paste made from chili peppers, yuzu peel and salt, which is then allowed to ferment. It is usually used as a condiment for nabemono dishes, miso soup, and sashimi. The most famous types of yuzukoshō come from Kyushu, where it is a local specialty.

E. japonica may refer to:

Mustard (condiment) condiment made from various varieties of mustard seeds

Mustard is a condiment made from the seeds of a mustard plant.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to herbs and spices:

Silver Spring Foods

Silver Spring Foods, Inc., is the world's largest grower and producer of horseradish. Founded in 1929, the company is based in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and also produces an assortment of sauces and mustards. The company was incorporated in 1949 as Silver Spring Gardens.

Hikimi wasabi

Hikimi Wasabi (匹見ワサビ) is a variety of wasabi cultivated in Hikimi Town, Shimane Prefecture, Japan.


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Further reading