Written by Dale Richardson - Updated: June 23, 2023
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Wasabi peas are a popular, spicy snack food. If you are an adventurous gardener who is ready for a long-term commitment, you can grow the ingredients to make your own.
Making your own wasabi peas requires two main ingredients: peas and wasabi. The best peas to grow are the Marrowfat variety, and these will be an easy addition to your garden if you already grow garden peas. Growing wasabi involves starting the plant from a plant start or seeds and keeping the plant in full shade. Wasabi needs lots of water in well-drained soil and a consistent temperature between 0°C to 26°C (32°F-80°F). All parts of the plant are edible, but it takes around 2 years to cultivate the desired spicy stalk.
To make wasabi peas from your own garden, growing the peas is the easy part. The difficult part will be growing wasabi. Let's learn how to grow this extremely challenging vegetable.
You can turn any pea into a wasabi pea. However, the most commonly used variety is the Marrowfat Pea. Read this article here on how to grow Marrowfat peas in your garden. Chickpeas are also a popular choice for homemade wasabi peas.
Wasabia japonica is considered by many gardening experts as the most difficult plant to grow. This is especially true on a commercial scale, but even in the home garden, the wasabi plant has very particular requirements and needs special care. However, if you really want to grow it, it will often sell for $150 (£100) per kilogram. If your plants successfully grow, you could be sitting on a very spicy gold mine.
The wasabi is native to Japan, where it grows in wooded areas, often in or near a stream bed. To successfully grow this semi-aquatic plant, you need to replicate these natural conditions in your own garden. Because it is so difficult to meet this plant's requirements, wasabi can be grown very well in 1 or 2-gallon pots, so the plant can be moved about to the perfect conditions as needed.
Read Next: How to grow peas all year long.
Image by mannewaar
Wasabi seeds are very difficult to come by since the seeds themselves are very difficult to harvest. However, they can be ordered online and grown quite successfully. Be careful when ordering wasabi seeds from local garden centres, as most seeds sold under this name are usually "wasabi mustard" or "wasabi arugula" which are not true wasabi plants.
To grow wasabi from seed, soak the seeds overnight in distilled water to soften the shell and aid germination. Sow the seeds 5cm (2inches) apart by lightly pressing the seeds into the soil. The seeds require a consistently warm temperature so it is best to start them indoors. Keep the seeds moist at all times, but watch out for mould and remove any diseased sprouts immediately. Once established, the plants will have to be separated to accommodate the fairly large size of the fully grown plant.
It is far more common to grow wasabi from starts. These are shoots off of the wasabi root, that will produce a healthy vigorous plant when planted. Just like the seeds, keep them evenly watered.
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Since wasabi naturally grows in wooded areas, your plant will require full shade. Any sunlight will quickly cause the plant to droop and wither. If an adequate location with full shade cannot be found, provide a cover with shade cloth or keep the plant in a pot to move about as needed.
The temperate climate in Japan when the wasabi grows generally ranges from 7°C to 21°C (45°F-70°F). However, the plant can tolerate a temperature range of 0°C to 26°C (32°F-80°F). Outside of this range and the plant will easily die. Sudden fluctuations in temperature can also be fatal. Again, growing the wasabi in a pot that can be brought indoors might be the best solution.
The wasabi plant can often be found growing in Japanese stream beds. In the home garden, however, the wasabi does not like standing water. It prefers well-drained, damp to wet soil that stays consistently moist. This is definitely not the houseplant to choose if you are one of those people, like me, who forgets to water their pots and then gives them a deluge to perk up the wilted plant.
Image by 江戸村のとくぞう
All parts of a wasabi plant are edible. The shoots and leaves can be eaten quite early on either fresh or cooked.
However, most people prefer to wait for the stalk, or rhizome. This is the knobbly green part of the plant that grows just at the surface of the soil and is ground to make the spicy wasabi powder.
Your wasabi stalk will be ready for harvest in about 15 to 24 months, though some growers prefer to wait a full three years. Before the 15 month mark, it is too small to harvest and the flavour is very mild. The stalks are ready to harvest when they are about 18cm to 20cm (7-8inches) long.
To harvest the spicy stalks, it is most common to pull up the whole plant. Not only can you harvest the desired stalks, but you can also harvest plant starts off the roots so you can grow a whole new plant.
To store the wasabi stalk, wrap it in a damp piece of paper towel and put it in a bag. It will store for a few months in the refrigerator.
Image by Margareth Angelina
After nearly two years in the garden, you are now ready to make your own wasabi peas. Most recipes call for pre-made wasabi powder, but this recipe here uses fresh wasabi. Put this on your own, dried Marrowfat peas and you are ready to go.
After all that work, you can sit back and enjoy a delicious spicy snack.
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