The very word wasabi conjures up exotic images of rows of perfectly formed sushi served by geisha hostesses and certainly not a watercress farm in deepest Dorset! But this is where it is all happening; the Watercress Company, Waddock Cross have started a new business the Wasabi Company, which is the only company in Europe to grow these wonderful green rhizomes for the UK’s top restaurants, chefs & home users (yes it is like a drug!)
At a secret location there is a wasabi plantation growing these water lily like plants. The plants take two years to grow into suitable sized rhizomes that can be used for the table. But all the plant is edible from the leaves for wrapping & shredding, stalks thinly sliced for garnish and the roots pickled & fried. But it is the rhizomes that are the prized part and can be matched with almost any food from fish, chocolate, ice cream, game, beef etc. The plants are really fussy to grow, requiring shade, running water and doesn’t like too much frost. It has taken the Wasabi Company many years to provide the plants with perfect conditions and now they are ramping up production.
I nipped along to meet James Harper of the Wasabi Company to show me exactly what the fuss is all about. Out came the whole plant, wonderful bright green leaves on the end of long stalks and a mass of roots hiding the prized rhizomes. It looked like a water type horseradish, but James told me it is completely different plant, horseradish has roots & tubers and wasabi has roots & a rhizomes.
James sliced the top of the rhizome and then (on a special wasabi grater) slowly grated the wasabi and soon there was a wonderful light green paste. There is even a special bamboo brush for removing all the wasabi from the grater. James also produced a commercial wasabi from a tube; it was vivid green and was made from horseradish & mustard, it looked exactly like what it is, so artificial against the original!
James said that you have to leave the wasabi paste for a few minutes to let it mature into its full heat and then in went my finger and into my mouth. WOW it was sweet tasting with a fiery heat and really cleaned out the sinuses. But the heat soon gave way to a wonderful sweetness and your palate was ready to taste the accompanying delicacy (if there had of been one!) James then suggested I try a proper sized portion, so in I went again and this time the same sensations but magnified – wow this is proper job wasabi!!
You will soon be reading about this wasabi in many magazines and shortly on the TV. So if you want to try it before all the hype, visit their website and order a rhizome to impress your friends, I can ensure you they will be mightily impressed!!
The Wasabi Company
t: 01929 463824