Friday, 21 January 2011

A little about Wasabi and Shiso

First of all, I want to thank everybody for participating in the world garden carnival! We had almost 50 entries with a lot of amazing ideas and projects for the starting year. It is always great to see so many gardens around the world and get to meet so many people.

It always amazes me how we can connect even when we are so far apart. I feel like you are all my neighbors from around the block. We ask each other for advice, give support, and share our passion for gardening. Thank you very much!

It also amazes me how much inspiration can surge, from this interactions that we might not otherwise have. I have come up with so many ideas and I discovered some activities that I really enjoy thanks to this. For example, lately, I have been getting some mails and having some conversations, where I have been asked about "how to grow", "how to take care" or just special questions about plants or gardening.

Now, I must say, I am not an expert. I might have some knowledge and practice on growing plants and gardening in general, but I still have a lot to learn. But that is precisely the part that I have found most fun. When asked about things I don’t know, I try to go and look them up. It might be my researcher nature, (that is what made me go into engineering and academics) because I really like investigating, researching and coming with a proper answer.

One example is, some time ago, I had a couple of mails from Cina from My Obsession My Compulsion. (She gives a lot of very detailed information on a great variety of plants on her blog. Check it out if you can) where she ask me if I knew something about some Japanese herbs. Although I didn’t knew much of the herbs in question at that moment, I was more than happy to help her.

I look around and in the end I did got some good information that I hope was useful for her. I enjoyed a lot researching for this data, and I learn a lot while doing it too. Here is a tiny bit of what I found on some of the plants she ask me about.

About wasabi

IMG_5017 Wasabi plant

Wasabi plant

  • A staple of Japanese cuisine.

  • It is also known as "Japanese horseradish".

  • Its root is used as a condiment and has an extremely strong flavor similar to mustard.

  • Wasabi is a Brassica, so it is related to Cabbages, Cauliflower, Broccoli.

  • It is a very hard pant to grow because it has very specific requirements.

  • If grown correctly it will grow slowly for two years before is ready to harvest.


Wasabi growing in the mountains of japan

  • It prefers cool, shady conditions. In japan it is usually grown in the mountains, using the running water from misty mountain streams.

  • At home might be best kept in a Aquaponics system, to keep them wet all the time, even the seeds won’t survive long time without the proper moisture.

  • The hardest part of growing wasabi might be getting a viable plant, seeds or plants are not easy to find.

A little about Shiso


Shiso plant

  • Also known as perilla ot beefsteak plant.

  • Great herb for cooking, garnishing and with some medicinal proprieties too.

  • It grows up to 130 cm tall. It has big and toothy leaves, with ruffled edges, and fine hairs on them.

  • It comes from the same family as basil, so the flavor is somehow similar but the texture is very different.

  • It is a very nice plant to have. It is an annual, but it reseeds easily with the proper conditions. Goes great with sashimi.

Shiso Leaves

Shiso is a great for cooking and garnish

I will post more about this and other Japanese herbs later. In the meantime, if you have any question that I might help, feel free to send me a mail. I will try to give my best knowledge. Or, if I don't know, I will look around for the best answer possible. It might take a bit for me to get back to you if I get "school busy", but I will try to answer as fast as I can.

Also, while we are on the subject of online gardening neighbors. I want to give a special thanks to Jo from The Good Life for giving me a blogger award. I enjoy your blog very much too. Thank you!


  1. This is fascinating. We have Sushi eaters in our house and we love wasabi too. I enjoyed reading how it grows...I also visited your balcony garden post from November. You have your own Eden there! I'm starting an herb garden from seed this year too... Your blog is inspiring.

  2. Hi Fer; So you're setting yourself up to be a reFERence facility then..? I hope you know what you are letting yourself in for! You may be inundated with enquiries. I find that although information is so readily available on the internet these days, very few people have the energy to find things out for themselves.

  3. I love how pretty these plants look while they are growing! Thanks for sharing them!

  4. You did really well with the carnival Fer and helped me find some new blogs to visit!

    I always amazes me too when an email arrives from a total stranger who thinks I can help them and like you I try my best to do so and in the process may learn something new. I was a teacher so maybe the urge to learn is with me too!

  5. Interesting articles! Good to see the origins of the familiar wasabi which I love putting on my sushi :) I'm hungry now!

  6. I don't think there could be two plants with more opposite growing habits than these two (and both are delicious!) I've tried wasabi several times and it just hates my southern heat. On the other hand, shiso is downright weedy.

    I just finished looking through all the entries on your blog carnival a few minutes ago -- so much fun to read them! Thanks for hosting it.

  7. I wondered what wasabi was. My son loves anything wasabi flavored. My dad grows horseradish and I thought that's what wasabi was. Thanks for the info.

  8. Hi Fer
    Thanks for a great helpful and useful post. Yes, though the internet is full of information on wasabi, the only thing that pique me was why is it so rare to find the fresh horseradish anything outside of Japan and why no one grows it outside of Japan (in private vegetable gardens or commercially). Now I have a better understanding of the difficulty and length of time, and possibly the feasiblity as a commercial crop. No wonder it is so expensive and difficult to get real wasabi in almost all Japanese restaurant.

    The shiso is because it looked so much like the basil purple ruffles and I thought my purple ruffles could be the shiso, I was hoping anyway but looks like its not

    You are the best fer


  9. Hi Fer, I have never seen wasabi growing! I love it with sushi! It clears out the nasal passage! Thank you for sharing and for the education. I love the looks of the shiso . . . beautiful leaf . . . I wonder if you can make pesto with it.

  10. I was just thinking about whether I can grow wasabi here. But I think not as we can't provide the moisture it needs. Correct me if I am wrong but I think shiso helps with digestion.

  11. You seem to have more knowledges on Wasabi, and Shiso (green perilla) than I!
    I love Wasabi and Shiso and I add them to various dishes so often for condiment. Grated wasabi is served with Sashimi and Sushi but I love to add it to sauce for Zaru-Soba noodle ( cold soba with dipping sauce )!!

  12. I've never heard of either of these plants before. Blogs are a great way of learing something new.

  13. Fer, curiosity is a sign of being a genius. I think you might just be in the genius department.

    I am familiar with the Wasabi plant but never before heard of Shiso.

    Thanks for sharing your research and information.


  14. The shiso leaves are beautiful. I'd never heard of it before. Blogs are such a wonderful place to learn new things! Thanks Fer also for hosting the much good information on all the posts!

  15. Fer, congratulations on the success of your carnival. Your enthusiasm is infectious. The Perilla which you talk of, I often grow the red variety which makes a great dot plant for the annual border.

  16. The shiso plant is new to me too. I only know wasabi from the tiny amount that we get in Marks and Spencer's sushi!
    Love the photo of the wasabi plants growing in terraces. Looks so lush and green.

  17. Wasabi is way too hot for me but both make very pretty plants. I think I prefer my wasabi in the ground instead of on my food. :o)

  18. Greetings from Southern California :-)

    I added myself to follow your blog. You are more than welcome to visit mine and become a follower if you want to.

    God Bless You, ~Ron

  19. Hi Fer,
    I didn't know wasabi is from plant! Thank you for the information. Wasabi Kit-Kat is ok to me but not on sushi, it's too hot!

  20. Thank you very much! So far I have gotten a good response too, thank you for your mails. And, great that I help you know more about these plants, they are good to try.

    Mark ~ I do hope I am not getting myself into too much trouble. Wish me luck

    Sue ~ It is quite a trill isn't. It is also a great way of learning something new that we probably could not have thought by ourselves.

    Cina ~ Thank you very much for your mail! it inspired me to get shiso for next season and maybe grow wasabi some day. They are quite remarkable plants.

    Diana ~ They do help digestion. From what I learned they have a lot of medicinal properties.

  21. Dear fer

    Yes, I think you should definitely grow wasabi and shiso and I will follow u in your growing experience via your blog and experience it as if I am growing it myself here. Wouldn't that be wonderful. Looking forward to it.

    p/s Congrats with your carnival and your own host address :P Regrets I could never participate in the carnival as I am not an ardent gardener, maybe just an incidental one.


  22. I have not tried growing wasabi as they need a lot of water, I think... but I am growing a bit of shiso and a lot of Korean perilla, which is a little different from the shiso...

  23. Hi fer, your seed box ideas were cool. Please link it.

  24. Hi Fer,
    I'm not sure if I'd heard of wasabi before a couple weeks ago, when I came across a recipe for salmon cakes that called for wasabi powder. Now, I know what it looks like growing. How cool!

    I don't know if I've heard of shiso. Where I live there is a red leaved perilla that self sows all over the place. I decided not to grow it.

  25. This is how Wasabi and shiso leaves looks like! I have eaten them but do not know how they look like! Thanks for sharing!

  26. Fer, I am a little behind on my reading. I have eaten wasabi with my sushi for years without ever wondering what it was or where it came from. Very interesting information, especially the photo of growing it in a stream bed. Carolyn

  27. I love wasabi but didn't know it grows in the mountains. Shiso looks beautiful.

  28. Tank you for this very informative post.

  29. like I always said, I love your blog


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