How To Harvest Wasabi Leaves and Stems From Your Garden
Markus Mead, Co-Founder and Farmer of Oregon Coast Wasabi. Jennifer’s husband and business partner.
Harvest Recommendations, Procedures and Preparation (Summary):
· Harvest frequently and enjoy often.
· Harvest every 2-4 weeks.
· Trim/harvest the stems surrounding the center meristem leaving the first “ring” of stems around the center.
· Don’t trim/harvest the reddish central leaves or the smaller leaves yet to fully unfurl.
· Sauté the stems in olive oil on low/medium heat for 7 minutes. Add the leaves at the 7 minute mark and sauté for another 2 minutes. Sprinkle with sea salt and enjoy. Kampai!
· See below for additional leaf and stem recipes and photos of this recipe.
Most textbooks start at the beginning. In this case it could be, “what is wasabi?”, or “the origins of wasabi as a food” or “wasabi habitat descriptions”. I’ll reserve those topics are for future articles. Please indulge me and enjoy this first article and associated video about harvesting and enjoying the wasabi. In later articles, I’ll describe more of the information, facts and wonders of this miraculous plant.
At this moment, either your garden wasabi is growing or you’re imagining your garden wasabi. If your wasabi patch has dark green opaque leaves growing together in a mini canopy of what looks like lily pads suspended in the air, now is the perfect time to harvest these wasabi leaves and stems. Any resistance about removing plant material you have is to be expected. Resist your resistance and liberally, gleefully, snip away and add some home-grown exoticness to your next meal. Most of the leaves you see will soon senesce anyway and only decay into the duff. Why not snip off these greens and enjoy them? Periodic harvesting of the leaves and stems won’t hurt the plant. It won’t affect its viability or the rhizome (central stalk) growth. Make sure to leave the center - top “bud” for future growth (this is shown in the video as the unfurled leaf called the apical meristem). The plant will continue sprouting from this meristem, unfurling little tender leaves, and it will do this year-round even inn the depth of winter; albeit a bit slower than the Spring and Autumn.
Wasabi is different from many other plants in that photosynthesis is not as crucial and it can be reduced by leaf removal (harvest). Wasabi obtains much of its nutrients from water and soil, which is taken up by the roots. As long as there are a few leaves remaining, it will photosynthesize enough to be perfectly viable. If all the leaves are removed - if you get overzealous or are cooking for a large party - it’s ok. The plant will recover just fine as long as that central meristem remains. Enjoy the “produce” rather than being too concerned with harming the plant.
Harvest procedure. Reference the embedded video. Harvest all the stalks and leaves that are growing any other direction than vertical and/or are in an area other than the immediate ring of the crown surrounding the center-top “bud” (called the apical meristem).
Pickled Leaves and Stems (quick pickle, not fermented – though that’s completely possible and really tasty.)
Add the prepared (as above) or raw leaves and stems to noodle or rice dishes pictured below.
Article Recipe With Photos
1. With a chef knife, separate leaves from stems at the base of leaf by cutting away stem within one inch of the leaf (precision is not mandatory as all greens can be eaten raw)
2. Chop stems into ¼-1-inch lengths. Consistency is more important than the actual length.
3. Dice leaves into any desired size.
4. Sauté the stems in olive oil on low/medium heat for 7 minutes. Add the leaves at the 7 minute mark and sauté for another 2 minutes.
5. Sprinkle with sea salt and enjoy. Kampai!