I think everybody knows how to eat wasabi with sushi, but there is so much more to this cute lil’ plant! I am fortunate enough to have a local source for fresh wasabi from Oregon Coast Wasabi, but they do ship, so that means you can too. And not just the root (or more accurately, rhizome) which is the most familiar part, but the whole plant. Yup, you can eat the leaves and stems as well and you should, because they are delicious! You can even grow your own wasabi at home because they sell plant starts. I’ve got one on my front porch in a pot that I completely ignore but it continues to grow for me. Unconditional wasabi love, sigh.
The stems are one of my favorite parts of the plant. They have a crunch like celery when they get bigger in size, but with a wonderful peppery punch of flavor. I snack on them as is. They would not be out of place on a crudité platter with some creamy dreamy dips (hummus, ranch if that’s how you roll, others). I’m convinced that adding some chopped bits for crunch in chicken or tuna salad would rock. When the plants are smaller, the stems look and taste a bit like chives on steroids. I add them to mashed potatoes along with some crumbles of blue cheese. Soooo good!
The leaves can be enormous and almost prehistoric looking! Beautiful, dark green and heart shaped, cue the awwwww. They have a deep green/verdant flavor with a distinctive aromatic heat at the end when eaten raw. I like to tear a few into a salad for some added interest or when I need a peppery bite on a sandwich. Think arugula or watercress and you get the idea. I bet these leaves would be delicious as a stand-in for boring butter lettuce in lettuce wraps or as a bread substitute – fill with chicken or egg or tuna salad, maybe even a burger. I’m definitely making that for lunch soon!
I have found that the more you process the fresh wasabi leaves, either by cooking or through other machinations, the mellower they get. In one flash of inspiration I blanched the leaves and used them in place of spinach for spanakopita. It was good, but I was surprised to find it far less assertive and wasabi-like than I had expected. But really, how can you go wrong with cheese and greens wrapped in pastry?! I would make it again. But where the leaves really shone in my book was in a pistou. I whirled up a whole mess of them in my mini food processor with lemon juice, lemon zest, hazelnuts (not too many, they can overpower), salt and olive oil. That’s it and the result was a paste of magical bright deliciousness with multiple applications that I’m still discovering. And accidentally vegan too! We found it tasty on cauliflower gnocchi one night as well as over roasted potatoes and slathered on a pork tenderloin another. I expect it would be equally good atop toasted rustic bread with tomatoes for a riff on bruschetta. I can attest that a spoonful stirred into brothy soup is absolutely transformative and swoon worthy. If you want it to have more sinus-clearing clout, you can add in some pure wasabi powder or seasoning salt or even a sprinkle of Coleman’s dry mustard in a pinch to amp it up. Who knew wasabi was so versatile? Now you do, so go git yourself some!