Ever wonder why Wasabi, that fiery green paste and indispensable sushi accompaniment, tastes so much like horseradish?
Here’s why: because it IS horseradish.
Although we’ve learned to call it Wasabi, what we’re served in sushi restaurants in North America – and largely in Japan, too – is it nearly always a mixture of horseradish and green coloring, with perhaps a little dry mustard, or possibly, a very little real Wasabi added in.
Why not offer the real deal? Because real wasabi, Wasabia japonica, is very rare. Even in its native Japan, demand constantly outstrips supply, and it’s expensive to import and notoriously tricky to grow.
It is a rare find and unmatched taste experience. And here it is…
My Trip To Bountiful – An Afternoon Brian the Wasabi Guy
It’s a chilly, gray morning in May here in the Northwest, and I’m peering through dark-colored shade tarp walls into a long greenhouse. Inside, a thick, lush carpet of wasabi plants extend from one end to the other, almost ready to be harvested. There’s barely room to pick a pathway through the sea of green.
The family who grows the Wasabi
Tim and I are here to talk with wasabi meister Dr. Brian Oates, his wife Laurencia Coupal, and their 10-year-old daughter Aleena, who met us at one of their prime wasabi-growing sites. As Aleena leads us all into the greenhouse, the rich, heavy, green smell of the damp plants envelops us.
We watch as Brian selects a big, bushy plant that’s ready for harvest, after about 18 months of growing. Loosening it from the ground with a hoe he pulls it up, leaves, roots and all, and carries it outside to a cleaning and prep station conveniently set up