Wasabi DOES contain Starch Granules – A lot of them!!!
This is the second article on this subject due to the inability of people to understand that Starch is in all plant material in the form of Carbohydrates.
The report below is from the USDA Nutrient Database which shows that in the raw state, Wasabia japonica root (Wasabi rhizome) contains nearly 24% Carbohydrates.
When you extract the water by freeze drying the Wasabi rhizome the starch level increases a lot. I’m sure someone with a scientific bent can work out just how much that increase is. 🙂
When the freeze-dried rhizome is subjected to grinding then these carbohydrates will be broken down into various sizes, but Starch granules, ubiquitous in plants, have individual characteristics and resistance to grinding and drying and even to light burning so they are often preserved when other plant remains are lost.
Starch granule analysis is not a perfect science, however, plant starch granule analysis is a diagnostic feature of multiple applications according to the peculiarities and to the origin of the plant material. The size, shape and structure of starch granules from plant species, varies little, which can lead to problems with identification.
(1) Cortella, A. R.; Pochettino, M. L. (1994). “Starch grain analysis as a Microscopic Diagnostic Feature in the Identification of Plant Material”. Economic Botany 48 (2): 171–181. doi:10.1007/BF02908212. ISSN 0013-0001.
In some cases the starch granules can become degraded. Factors such as heat and water absorption may affect the structure of the granules, making identification more difficult. Even if the remains are well preserved, water logging, dehydration, desiccation or damage from fungi can destroy the starch. In some cases, even within the same species, starch granules can differ in shape and size.
Starch granules are typically microscopically identified with either optical or electron microscopy. Starch granules can become clearer if they are stained a darker color with Iodine Stains. Logol’s Iodine is one, used for staining starch because iodine reagents easily bind to starch but less easily to other materials. Features that allow identification of starch granules include: presence of hilum (core of the granule), lamellae (or growth layers), birefringence, and extinction cross (a cross shape, visible on granules under revolving polarized light) which are visible with a microscope and shape and size.
(2) Clarissa Cagnato. “Starch Grain Analysis – Paleoethnobotany”. Retrieved 2014-06-25.
Modern light, high powered microscopes have an internal light source, allowing illumination with both transmitted and reflected light. These microscopes can provide a magnification of up to x1000: good enough to provide clear images of starch granules as small as a few micrometres in diameter.
Starch granules show different sizes. For example;
- Tapioca starch: 5-35 µm
- Potato starch: 15-100 µm
- Maize starch: 5-25 µm
- Rice starch: 3-8 µm
but all are generally under 100 micrometres in size, and are, therefore, best observed under compound microscopes equipped with various lighting conditions and magnifications from x200 to x800.
(3) Torrence, Robin (2006), Ancient Starch Research, Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press Inc., ISBN 1-59874-018-0 pages 48, 49
(4) Torrence, Robin (2006), Ancient Starch Research, Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press Inc., ISBN 1-59874-018-0 page 47
To my knowledge there has never been any studies done into the Starch Granules contained in the Wasabia japonica plant and the numerous species within the Wasabia japonica plant group. This work is obviously waiting for a keen Ph.D. student to make a name for themselves.
From the information above it would appear that freeze drying the Wasabi rhizome and turning it into a powder can either destroy or damage the Starch Granules which makes specific identification more difficult, if not impossible.
[Thanks to Wikipedia for a lot of the above information.]
So when people say My laboratory test shows there is Starch in the Wasabi, I can say “Of course there is – it is a plant!”