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Hana Wasabi Flowers
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Hana Wasabi are the young stems and flowers of the wasabi plant. The green stems are typically 10-15 centimeters in length and the bright green, deeply veined, heart-shaped leaves can grow to 4-5 centimeters in diameter. Each stem may have up to five leaves growing at one time. The small flowers, which grow in clusters of 10-12 on the stems, are often found in tight green buds and bloom into small star-shaped flowers with white petals. Hana Wasabi are crunchy and have a fresh, spicy bite with flavors similar to mustard greens and spinach. It also has a milder pungency that is associated with the strong taste of the grated wasabi root.
Hana Wasabi is available year-round, with a peak season in late winter to early summer.
Hana Wasabi comes from the wasabi plant, botanically known as Wasabia tenuis which is the wild variety, and Wasabia japonica which is the cultivated variety and belongs to the mustard family along with horseradish and daikon radish. The wasabi plant is mostly valued for its succulent underground root, which is grated into the famous wasabi condiment. Also known as Wasabi Green Tops and Wasabi flowers, Hana Wasabi has grown in popularity as the desire to use all parts of a plant has become common in sustainable living. Hana Wasabi is also favored because the stems and flowers can be removed when needed and the plant will continue to grow and produce new stems.
Hana Wasabi contains glucosinolates that give the wasabi rhizome its spicy flavor. It also contains compounds such as polyphenols and flavonoids that may have anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects.
Hana Wasabi is best suited for both raw and cooked applications including sautéing and stir-frying. It can be eaten raw in salads, used to garnish sushi rolls, sautéed into vegetable stir-fries, and used as a topping for miso soup, udon, or soba. The delicate appearance and spicy taste of Hana Wasabi also make it ideal for decorating cocktails. Hana Wasabi is used to make the traditional pickle dish called “wasabi-zuke.” It is cut into bite-sized pieces along with the root, soaked in salt water, and then mixed with sake lees. This spread can be used in poultry and sausage recipes as well as over steamed rice or on toast. Hana Wasabi will keep up to ten days when stored washed and left moist in a bag in the refrigerator.
The name Hana Wasabi is Japanese for wasabi flowers, although the phrase refers to the leaves and stems as well. In Japan, where there are strict regulations around cultivation, wasabi is split into two groups– sawa wasabi, which grows in flowing water such as streams, and oka or hata wasabi, which is grown in soil. Although it has been reported and believed that no difference in quality between these types of wasabi exists, sawa wasabi tends to be more culturally valued.
Wasabi is grown throughout most of Japan and flourishes naturally in semi-aquatic, mountainous areas. Wasabi has been recorded in written literature in Japan since the 10th century, and Hana Wasabi has been used since 1600 CE. Today, commercial production of wasabi is centered around the Izu peninsula and the Saitoma, Nagano, and Shizouka prefectures. It is also grown in parts of Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and the United Kingdom.