Wasabi Winter Harvest
Wasabi harvest has started in earnest in Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Utougi (along the Abe River), the birthplace of wasabi (c. 1600).
Growers have anounced that this year’s crop (it takes one to two years to nurture wasabi roots to maturity) is excellent witn a strong taste and aroma.
Not only the roots, but also the leaves and stems are edible (the latter are very popular as tenpura or pickled).
They will soon appear on the markets and Internet all over the country. A sizeable amount is also directly exported to South Kore and theU.S.
Wasabi: Japanese green horseradish
Did you that wasabi originated from Shizuoka City?
Around 1600, farmers in Utougi District, some 33 km from Shizuoka JR STation along the Abe River, first started experimenting with the culture of that particular plant, which they already knew as a vegetable used for pickling. At the time they were only processing the stems, leaves and flowers.
This is still a very popular kind of pickles in Shizuoka where they are sold in season.
In 1604, Tokugawa Ieyasu, who had just moved to Sumpu (presently Shizuoka City), grew extremely fond of the grated root and helped spread its use all over the country. Its present culture has expanded outside our Prefecture, especially in Nagano, but Shizuoka still produces the best In Utougi and in the Amagi Range in Izu Peninsula.
The above-ground part of the plant is also used for making delicious “wasabi zuke” with “sake kasu” (Sake white lees). You can imagine why Shizuoka products are of so high quality when you realize what “sake kasu” is being used!
In my own biased opinion, the best “wasabi zuke” is made by Tamaruya Company in Shizuoka City.
Above picture was taken in Haneda Airport where the Company has its own stand!
Now, if you want to buy and serve your own “wasabi”, which I would recommend to any real Japanese cuisine amateur, you will need a wasabi grater.
If you want to visit Utouki, where you will find a soba restaurant and other shops as well as the possibility of trekking and festivals watching in April and October, either go by car (55 minutes) or take a bus (bus platform 7 at Shizuoka JR Station/75 minutes). The trip along along the Abe River is worth it with all the changing landscapes!
Now, you might know it, but thinly sliced wasabi root is not as strong as grated wasabi. In Shizuoka, as it is not that expensive, try and ask your favourite sushi chef to cut it in very thin strips and roll as it is in a “maki”. It’s called “bakudan maki” (the real one, not the buster made with grated wasabi!). A favourite of mine!