Have you eaten Wasabi?
Your answer to that question is probably ‘yes,’ but this article would beg to differ. What most of us have tried is probably just wasabi wannabe — a mixture of horseradish and Chinese mustard dashed with green food dye.
Wasabia japonica is one of the most costly crops to plant. ‘Legit wasabi’ takes several years to grow and only matures if conditions are correct. Endemic to the mountain streams of central Japan, this temperamental semiaquatic herb is very challenging to farm.
The Shigeo lineage has been growing wasabi for more than four centuries now. The eighth-generation wasabi cultivator, Iida, practices sustainable farming, called ‘tatamiishi’ in Japan. Tatamiishi farms are built near rivers on hillside slopes. Being a protector of the environment, Iida doesn’t use synthetic chemicals or fertilizers.
A real wasabi has a unique, fragrant scent that strikes the nose. The sweet taste would follow and eventually the spiciness would kick in. Iida states that tatamiishi-grown wasabi are the best among the rest.
Authentic wasabi’s priced at an estimated US$260 per kilogram.