It is native to Eastern Europe and Asia Minor. It seems that it was already used thousands of years ago. It was definitely used in ancient times, when its leaves and root were both used as a drug rather than as a condiment. It has been cultivated in Europe since the 12th century.
It has long been thought to have aphrodisiac powers, perhaps because, according to legend, it was Apollo, the god of love, who brought it to Greece, or perhaps simply because of its strong flavor.
Horseradish arrived in America with the settlers and now the U.S., particularly the state of Illinois, is the world's main producer.
The first record of wasabi dates back to the Heian period (794–1185), when it was used for medicinal purposes. Its use as an ingredient in Japanese cooking started in the Kamakura period (1185–1333) and it has been used ever since.
Its use was confined to Japan until Japanese cooking became popular in the Western world in the mid-20th century. After that, consumption of wasabi really took off, and now crops are grown in other countries and horseradish dyed green is even used as a substitute.
Horseradish: root sold fresh or in a jar, grated, pickled in vinegar or dried and ground. Horseradish can also be bought in a jar or tube mixed with oil and various additives.
Wasabi: available as a paste or as a powder to be mixed with water to form a paste.
Horseradish: the fresh root should be firm, without brown spots. In a jar, choose pure horseradish, without any added ingredients.
Wasabi: as the "strength" of wasabi is very volatile, some manufacturers add horseradish root and green dye, which modifies its original flavor. It is important to check the list of ingredients on the label. Sometimes, a mixture of horseradish and additives is dyed green and sold as wasabi.
The root is washed, peeled, and grated, and then immediately mixed with lemon juice or vinegar to prevent oxidation.
Although it is quite rare in French cuisine (except in Alsace), horseradish is traditionally used in the east and north of Europe, in the Anglo-Saxon countries: it is served alongside braised, boiled, roasted, or cold meat, game, fish, such as salmon and herring, and salads, especially those containing potatoes and cabbage. It is also used to spice up various sauces and dressings.
Wasabi is a natural partner for sushi and sashimi, presented as a small ball of paste, which is placed in a small dish and mixed with soy sauce.
It can act as a substitute for mustard in meat and fish dishes, or made into a sauce for vegetables, diluted with soy sauce or miso, or sometimes sake. Bonito flakes can also be added to it.
Horseradish: the fresh root will keep for several days in the refrigerator, wrapped in a damp paper towel. In a jar, it will keep at room temperature.
Wasabi: both paste and powder can be stored at room temperature.
Horseradish and wasabi are very rich in minerals and antioxidants, which is why they have both been used in the past for medicinal reasons. They offer protection against cardiovascular disease and certain cancers when consumed in sufficient quantities on a regular basis.
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