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WNC "Keepin' it Real" -  What often passes for wasabi might be a little green lie

WNC "Keepin' it Real" - What often passes for wasabi might be a little green lie


Mountain Living in Western North Carolina

by Aaron Dahlstrom August 2007

Keepin' it Real

What often passes for wasabi might be a little green lie

Many Americans who enjoy a little wasabi with their sushi have been fooled.  In America, the condiment that has served as a staple of Japanese cuisine for centuries has become little more than horseradish and food coloring.  Typically referred to as "faux wasabi," this imposter assaults the sinuses and burns longer than authentic wasabi.

Trus wasabi, grown from the Wasabia japonica plant, produces a much milder heat and more complex flavor according to Doug Lambrecht, owner and founder of Real Wasabi, LLC.  Lambrecht's company grows the wasabi plant at their farm in Cullowhee, and they create products designed to introduce wasabi to the American palate.  "It's a versatile flavor that compliments a lot of things," Lambrecht says. " Its a rounder and fuller flavor, and the heat dissipates very quickly, leaving a sweet taste in the back of your mouth."

Growers use every leaf and stem from the wasabi plant, but the most valued portion is known as the rhizome-the thick underground stem.  Inside the rhizome are all the rich nutrients that give the plant ist distinctive flavor.

Growing wasabi can be tricky.  Because of its love for cold, damp climates, there are few places in North America capable of growing the plant.  The best-tasting plants, sawa wasabi, thrive in gravel beds flooded with pure spring water.  Lambrecht expected the mountains of Western North Carolina could provide ideal conditions for this type of cultivation, and Real Wasabi was born.  He and his business partner, Brooks Quinn, traveled to Japan in 2005 to learn the best techniques for growing the plant straight from the source.  Back home he "put some plants in the stream and they thrived," he says.  Lambrecht and other wasabi farmers who supply his company are only a handful of wasabi growers in North America and the only growers of Sawa wasabi in the states.

Certified Organic, Real Wasabi's products include dressings, sauces, powders, and wasabi flavored nuts, all of which can be used to create a variety of dishes from wasabi chicken saute' to mashed potatoes.


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