Wasabi: the hardest plant to grow in the world

wasabi root the hardest plant to grow in the world

wasabi root: the hardest plant to grow in the world

I stumbled upon an interesting article that shed light on many things I suspected but never actually confirmed about wasabi. Apparently, it’s “deemed by most experts to be the most difficult plant in the world to grow commercially.” But why? The article outlines the following challenges:

  1. Cultivation: it’s grown unlike any other plant. It needs plenty of water but it can’t be submerged like a water-lily. “In general, water flows over the crop, so it’s grown in water beds and that’s not something we commonly do in North America.”
  2. Access: one wasabi farmer said it took 6 years simply to get access to viable seeds.
  3. Temperment: too much humidity or the wrong nutrient composition can wipe out an entire crop of finicky wasabi.
  4. Development: wasabi takes just over a year to mature, which means that farmers have to be patient before money starts coming in.
  5. Scale: wasabi is especially prone to disease when planted on a large scale.

Daio wasabi farm

Daio Wasabi Farm in Nagano | photos by flickr user kzsktt36

Most wasabi farms fail, but those that succeed are rewarded. Fetching nearly $160 per kilogram at wholesale, in addition to being hard to nurture, wasabi is also one of the most lucrative plants on the planet.

The article also notes that only 5% of restaurants around the world serve real wasabi root. The other 95%? Chances are it’s a concoction of mustard, European horseradish and food coloring.

Accompanying this article are pictures from Japan’s largest wasabi farm, the Daio Wasabi Farm in Nagano. It was used as one of the sets in Akira Kurosawa’s 1990 film Dreams and its picturesque rivers and water mills makes it a big tourist attraction.

Daio wasabi farm in Nagano

Daio wasabi farm in Nagano

Daio wasabi farm in Nagano

Daio wasabi farm in Nagano

Daio wasabi farm in Nagano

Daio wasabi farm in Nagano

3 Comments

  1. I remember reading an article a while ago about the first British farm to grow wasabi…really interesting.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/9604651/British-farmer-discovers-secret-to-Wasabi.html

  2. I saw the same article and I thought it was a good PR piece of BS. 🙂 The farm that they were raving about was sold a couple of months ago to the Kiwis. It apparently was the only farm that was producing out of all the ones claimed in the article. Wasabi farms do not fail anymore than other businesses, businesses fail because of people and inability to market their product. The article was merely an advertisement for a Franchise which apparently doesn’t fulfill on its promises (that is why the farm was sold). See https://wasabi.org/us-wasabi-industry-verge-collapse/ for a more truthful version of what is going on. Wasabi growing is not particularly difficult if you know what you are doing.

  3. Japan and their patient farmers!! You never seize to amaze me!! 🙂

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