Garden Plant Starts – A Photo Chronicle

21 Feb

The leaves, stems and flowers of garden-grown wasabi plants are perfectly edible.  Wasabi is a brassica.  So, like kale, the leaves and stems on the side can be removed / snipped off and eaten while the plant will grow from the top (apical meristem).  The examples shown on this page were grown in the Willamette Valley in Oregon (Plant Hardiness Zone 8a.), not on the Oregon Coast where the Frog Eyes Wasabi Farm is located.  We wanted to approximate a laissez faire gardener environment, with no special treatment, hot and dry conditions in the summer and cold in the winter (relative to the Oregon Coast) to test the plants’ response.  They were planted in September, 2014 and the foliage shown is in March 2015.  They were grown in well-drained soil with approximately 20% gravel and the remainder soil and compost.  A bit of 14-14-14 lawn fertilizer was applied once per year. They endured an ice storm in November 2014 and snow in December 2015.

Below is a photo chronicle of these garden wasabi following the Dec. 2015 snow.  (Note, this is a Pacific Northwest snowstorm.  The likes of which much of the rest of the country would hardly take note.  The temperature was only ~30dF/-1dC and the snow was only a dusting.).  I’m showing this as a reference to those that want to know if the wasabi plant can survive a freeze.

Garden Wasabi Dec 2015 snow

Here are the same plants one month later on Jan. 30 2015.  Observe the new growth in the small leaves in the lower canopy.  Also observe the vacant space that one plant died last summer during the PNW drought. (I did replace this plant in later photos.)  Also observe the first flowers in the lower-right corner.  These plants begin their flowering cycle on Winter Solstice and then flowers are often visible by about February and may last until April / June depending on conditions.   The leaves and stems are perfectly edible at this stage (any stage really).  As long as the apical meristem is left intact.  See below for a photo of the meristem growth.

Garden Wasabi Plants Jan302016.jpg

Feb. 2 2015:  This photo shows the plants just a few days later on Feb. 2.  Note, I’ve planted a plant start from Frog Eyes Wasabi Farm in the vacant location.  Note how much the plant has grown in the next photo. IMG_3147.jpg

Feb. 20 2015.  What growth!  Observe the height of the leaves above the barrel rim that were below just 18 days ago.  Also, note the height of the two flowers and the leaf diameter.  Lastly, note the leaf coverage in multiple canopy layers with the largest leaves on top and the medium and then smaller leaves below.  These will all progress to form a full canopy with approximately 6-inch diameter leaves by April/May.  See previous posts for photos of these very same plants from past years.  This is an important point; some of these plants are the same originally planted in September 2014. Though we did lose a few in last summer’s heat and our intentional neglect.  See this post for more information. 

IMG_3187.jpg

Feb. 20 2015 continued:  Wasabi flowers are rare indeed. The plants drop their leaves on winter solstice and commence their flowering cycle which ends in mid April (but can continue through June). This specimen grown in a typically shady spot in Portland Oregon in standard-issue garden soil and conditions. The flowers are edible traditionally tempura-fried or steeped into a tea.

IMG_3188.jpg

Feb. 20 2015: My finger pointing at the apical meristem growth.  That is the top of the plant.  This is the most important part of wasabi growth.  If the plant start has this, it’ll continue growing.  The side stems senesce as the plant grows vertically and if really happy, producing a wasabi rhizome underneath!

IMG_3185.jpg

Tour Frog Eyes Wasabi Farm Virtually

9 Jan

Wasabi Fans,

We receive frequent requests to tour the Frog Eyes Wasabi Farm.  Honestly, we’d love to accommodate everyone.  We love sharing our produce with our customers.  This creates a problem as, for various reasons, we cannot provide farm tours.  To solve this problem, the good folks at the Zagat Guide created a fantastic video of the Frog Eyes Wasabi Farm.  The video chronicles the harvest process and includes the grand finale of grating the rhizome fresh a the farm.  This is the tour we would want to provide every one of you that request(ed / s) a tour.  We hope you enjoy the tour.

As evident on our media page, Jennifer has been the subject of many past videos.  She wanted to take a breather on this one.  Hint, somewhat like “Where’s Waldo” spot the faithful farm dog Sam in nearly every segment.

We hope you enjoy this video.  We are very grateful to the creators and producers of this video.  We think they did a fantastic job and created an entertaining and informative narrative.

 

How Long Does It Last Part II: Nature’s Flavor Wrapper (AKA Oxidization)

3 Nov

Crib notes from this entry: the black is just oxidization and actually seals in flavor and heat.  The white shoots are edible and quite tasty.  Order more wasabi than you think you’ll immediately use because it should last for two months – and once you have the fresh, hot, real wasabi you’ll use it more in your cooking (see this page for the many culinary uses).

Before devouring this entry, I recommend reading the preceding entry, How Long Does It Last (Part I) for reference.  That referential entry anecdotally describes the wasabi rhizome’s preservation abilityIn that post/entry, I described informing demo customers that the wasabi rhizome they just sampled was stored in the refrigerator for two months.  We also provided a comparison to freshly-harvested with no discernible flavor difference. This entry (Part II), shows what a two-month old rhizome looks like, preparation, presentation and an unexpected spontaneous gift from the wasabi rhizome.

The below rhizomes are over two months old and were placed in the bottom of a standard residential refrigerator vegetable drawer bin and frankly, neglected.  They were moved about, jostled and shoved aside after each week’s farmers’ market trip to make room for beets and summer greens.  They were wrapped in a (at one time damp) paper towel in a plastic bag; which comprises the basics of our recommended storage procedure. The white shoots all grew without the benefit of photosynthesis and is typical of post-harvest wasabi starting at about six weeks (see this recent entry about planting wasabi plant starts with white shoot growth). Bonus, unexpected, spontaneous gift: the white shoots are edible and actually quite tasty. But that’s not the purpose of this post, but was included in this previous entry.  So, your long-in-the-tooth wasabi in the bottom of the refrigerator is still fine to grate up, will still pack a heat and flavor punch and has these delicious little flavor-packed shoots that your guests likely have never seen or tasted and will be a great dinner conversation topic.  So, go ahead, order a bit more wasabi rhizome than you expect to use immediately and keep it until (from now) Christmas or longer.  It’ll be fine and you can grow fun, edible (and safe) things in your refrigerator!

IMG_2706

For reference, below is a package of freshly-harvested wasabi rhizomes from Frog Eyes Wasabi Farm

IMG_2665

The black is an oxidization layer that is naturally-forming and does NOT indicate spoilage.  Actual wasabi rhizome spoilage will be white or grey-colored and will be very stinky.  (Wasabi is a member of the brassica family which also includes broccoli; imagine stinky broccoli and magnify.)  Shown below is the preserved wasabi under the oxidized layer

IMG_2710

Essentially, if the wasabi does not stink; eat it.  The oxidization is millimeters thin and is shown below.  Though difficult to see, this rhizome tip is actually cutaway (reference the thin cut line about mid-point in the rhizome orientated top-to-bottom).

IMG_2711

This oxidization layer is nature’s natural flavor wrapper.  It’s edible – though for flavor sake I don’t recommend eating it – it is not mold. The wasabi rhizome essentially seals itself from the degratory effects of oxygen. Think of it as nature’s Rustoleum (trademarked / etc. I’m sure).  I typically scrape it off with the back of a knife.  A standard  peeler can also be used, though I this usually removes more rhizome flesh than I would prefer.

IMG_2707

To use these older rhizomes, remove the amount remove the oxidization from the length of rhizome that you want to grate as shown below.  Wrap these rhizomes back up in the same damp paper towel in the same plastic bag and I would imagine that they would be good for another month or so. The cut area of the grated area will re-oxidize and reseal the rhizome.  Just remember remember to not put it at the very very back of the refrigerator because it can freeze and that will make the rhizome mushy.  Freezing will affect the consistency and it will reduce the flavor as the heat.  These qualities are retained in the cell walls, which, once broken releases the heat and flavor.  The water inside the cells is released by the freeze-related expansion.  It’s like the cracks in a mason jar glass that was completely with water and put it in the freezer.

IMG_2712

So everyone, enjoy your wasabi and don’t be afraid to buy more than you might need because shipping is expensive and the rhizomes will last for a long time and it will grow these white shoots you can put on a dish and people will be rather amazed – and we hope, quite pleased as well.IMG_2713

Wasabi In The Garden: Second Autumn Planting

17 Oct

Wasabi Fans,

Note: these white plants starts were planted in Oct. 15 2015.  The update photos below were taking on Nov. 8 2015.

It’s time to plant wasabi in the garden again.  As I maintain, fall is an optimal time for wasabi planting.  We plant in both autumn and spring at both Frog Eyes Farm and our garden in Portland Oregon.  The  garden wasabi does not receive any amendment aside from an annual 14-14-14 fertilizer.  It does not receive any of the nutrients or conditions we use at Frog Eyes Wasabi Farm.  In fact, I intentionally neglect these plants and water minimally.  I want to subject them to the worst case conditions to mimic potential condition in your gardens.  This wine barrel does receive some sun for a few hours for a few weeks in the height of summer and a bit of sunlight on mid-winter mornings.  I wouldn’t recommend any more sun than this, and I do strongly recommend to plant wasabi where there’s no direct sunlight ever.  See below the state of the plants which, last Spring looked so healthy and lush.  The summer’s sun and heat killed about half of the plants an the other remaining are struggling. (Granted, I’ve not watered them for about one month now and just relied on sporadic rain.)  But, the apical meristems are growing and I expect them to recover.  (Know that the plants at Frog Eyes Wasabi Farm receive very attentive care.  Indeed, it’s the time I spend on the farm with those plants that precludes my care of these in the garden.  Farming’s hard.  By the time I get home, I want to take a shower, have a pint, and sit down!)

P1050128

See the closeups of the apical meristem that are growing. The leaves are dried, crinkled and brittle (also tough).  That’s due to the lack of watering.  They will flush out again when the rains come or I start watering.

P1050132P1050133

In fact, on this photo below, the primary rhizome/meristem has died away, but an offshoot is growing.  The wasabi plant, when stressed, will send out offshoots that will become dominant if the primary rhizome suffers.  I expect this plant to do the same.

P1050134

Now, to the planting.  I used offshoots from Frog Eyes Wasabi Farm.  These offshoots were in the refrigerator for approximately two months.  They grow these white stems much like Belgian endive.  The rhizomes and offshoots will both do this.  They are actually quite tasty.  I decided to leave them on.   I also am using these to show that the offshoots, even after being stressed and “out of the ground” for two months and nearly aerobic in the bottom vegetable drawer, will grow just fine.  If these grow, the ones we provide fresh from Frog Eyes Wasabi Farm should also grow just fine.  Remember to view the growing recommendations on our website. 

P1050125

All I did was use a trowel, dig a hole, insert the offshoot and replace the soil and water.  The white tops make the new plants more visible.  I’ll provide more updates as these grow and mature.  Remember, that one of the reasons to plant in the winter is that the offshoots grow all winter and like other brassicas, the leaves and stems are all edible and will be a source of fresh greens in the dead of winter.  Add wasabi to your kale garden and brussels sprouts and you’ve got healthy greens in the winter!

P1050135 P1050137

UPDATE Nov. 2015

What a difference some water and shade (not sun) makes!  The new plants and the existing year-old plants are doing quite well.   See the first photo below compared to the first photo in the above Oct. entry.   New growth abounds.

Garden Wasabi Nov 2015

The below is a white-shoot plant start shown above.  The green color has returned and fresh shoots are appearing.  Note, this is the one at about the 11:00 position shown above in the October entry.   All the new plant starts are doing well.  Even after enduring being uprooted several times by squirrels.

Garden Wasabi Nov 2015-2

This photo is a one-year old plant that is an offshoot from the dried-out and dead central rhizome shown above.  See the blackened remnants of the rhizome on its side just beside this new shoot?  And see how much healthier these new shoots seem from just a few weeks ago?  Some rain and lack of sun (shade) really help reinvigorate these plants. Garden Wasabi Nov 2015-3

Autumn Is The Time For Planting; Really Really

15 Sep

Wasabi Fans,

We prefer to plant wasabi in the early autumn. Though Spring is traditionally the universal crop-planting season to prepare for the summer sunshine, wasabi grows fastest during the transition seasons; Spring and Autumn.  Thus, planting to prepare for these seasons is important to establish the plant starts.   Think of wasabi as garlic; plant it in the autumn so it establishes and is ready to take maximum advantage of early Spring.  We do this at Frog Eyes Wasabi Farm and recommend it for the home garden as well.  This timing takes advantage of the cloudy day of Spring which establishes the plants so they flower in late Winter/early Spring.

Flowers and Pedunkles

Depending on your location, your springtime may be too hot or dry for wasabi to really take root.  As long as your winter doesn’t freeze too hard or long (below 25dF or for more than 48 hours duration), I think Autumn is the time for you.  This photo was taken approximately two months after planting in Sept. 2014.  This was the first ice storm of the season.  Look closely and the leaves are very shiny from the freezing rain.  The plants above are the same ones and indeed survived the winter (though not the neglect and heat of the summer).

Front Yard Wasabi

Indoor is ok, just make sure to NOT put it under a light.  Remember, we as an agriculturally-centered society, we think of food products being grown in open fields with lots of summer sunshine.  Though wasabi is indeed a food crop in that sense, it does not thrive in sunshine.  I can’t stress this enough.  It is the primary reason wasabi doesn’t flourish in gardens or long enough to become a food crop in your backyard.  This plant wants shade.  All year.  365 days per year.

Potted wasabi plant (shown outside, but taken inside for the winter).

Offshoot Growth

Photo below: Daio Wasabi Farm in Japan.  Photo courtesy: http://www.thesoupspoon.com/all-about-real-fresh-wasabi/

Daio Wasabi Farm

Err on the side of shade. not sun.  These leaves shown with very diffused winter light on February 20 2015 in the shade on a cloudy day (on the left) and the same plant in the sun on Feb. 28 2015.  Keep in mind that this is the sunshine at  46 degrees north in winter sun.  Though the leaves recovered, it shows that wasabi really prefers shade.  This is what makes wasabi a great garden crop, it’ll grow where other vegetables don’t thrive.  Plant it under the boxwood on the east side of the house, next to the moss, not on the south side of the tomatoes!  Remember, we have preparation and planting information on our webpage: http://www.thewasabistore.com/wasabi-plant-starts/   And, plant starts can be purchased here: http://www.thewasabistore.com/shop/wasabi-plantlet

Garden Plants Leaves Feb 20 2015Garden Plants Wilting Leaves Feb 28 2015

What Is Wasabi

9 Sep

Wasabi is not a root.  Please reference the photo below for a visual of the wasabi plant’s roots.  Horseradish – though a close botanical cousin – grows underground.  Wasabi grows above the ground.  As wasabi is a brassica, it’s related to broccoli.   Wasabi is a rhizome, which is essentially the stalk or trunk of the plant like the broccoli stem.  Though the growth patterns are different, it’s this stalk that gets grated to become the paste.  The roots are below ground and the green bits are all above ground.

FullSizeRender

This plant shows the roots, offshoots (the side shoots at the base) and the central rhizome (behind and slightly obscured by stems – sorry for the difficulty).  The offshoots are removed and the rhizome trimmed.  We trim all our rhizomes by hand, with hand tools.

IMG_2071

The above photo shows Jennifer harvesting the above-shown plant.  The plants are surprisingly large.  This full plant weighs approximately 4 pounds.

Below is the fully-trimmed rhizome.  Note: the stems were removed from this rhizome for weighing purposes.  It’s 130g 4.5oz which should be sufficient for dozens of customers’ full sushi dinners.

IMG_2572

Wasabi and Meat; Lots of Meat. Oct. 11 2015 Nicky USA Wild About Game

9 Sep

Wasabi Fans,  Frog Eyes is strutting its stuff at the 15th Annual Wild About Game hosted by Nicky USA meat purveyors.  Join us at the Resort at the Mountain on October 11th for a taste of all of the cook-off action and to sample your way through the Jacobsen Salt Co. Artisan Marketplace, featuring the best bites and sips in the Northwest. Tickets on sale now at MercTickets.com  The match ups have all been set and the game has been paired for the Game Cook-Off Competition at Wild About Game. We can’t wait to see what this amazing group of chefs cook up with our signature Nicky Farms game meats.

Chef_Match_Ups_&_Protein_Pairings_Announced

Wasabi is quite versatile with proteins.  With the diversity of meat on offer, food fans, epicureans and gourmands will be able to determine which type of meat that best pairs with wasabi.  We will be hosting a table and providing wasabi samples.  Rumor has it that we may even have a wasabi-infused vodka for the after party (yes, it’s infused with Frog Eyes Wasabi).  Taylor Stark from Departure Restaurant in the Nines hotel in Portland (executive chef is Gregory Gourdet of Top Chef and a friend of Frog Eyes Wasabi)  and beef from Nicky’s source Creekstone Natural Beef.

Beeffilet

Wasabi and Steak is a Japanese delicacy for a reason.  Wasabi pairs well with nearly any protein (and starch for that matter – mashed potatoes or cold noodles is particularly good).

We will be Instagramming from the event and will have heaps of protein-paring ideas.  Don’t get me wrong; I love sushi and fresh wasabi with fish, but with red meat it’s just decadent.  Unlike a sauce, it doesn’t alter the meat flavor or hide the meat at all.  Like a salt, it just augments and brightens flavors.  With Jacobsen Salt hosting the market, we’ll try the ti-pairing of salt, wasabi and meat.  I’ll report back…..

 

Steak and Wasabi