Wasabi grown in Iceland is now available in local restaurants for the first time, RÚV reports. The plant is being grown in a state-of-the-art greenhouse in the Fljótsdalur region of East Iceland.
The wasabi widely available in Icelandic supermarkets is not actually produced from the wasabi plant, and Icelandic sushi lovers and foodies are excited to get their hands on the real thing.
Johan Sindri Hanssen and Ragnar Atli Tómasson are the owners of Jurt, the company growing the plant. “The main product is the stalk. Many people think it’s the wasabi root but it is actually the stalk and it looks a little bit like a tree trunk. That’s the part which is actually chopped off the plant and shredded into this so-called wasabi purée. That which most people call wasabi actually has very little wasabi in it. If there is any at all, then it’s around 2 percent wasabi but otherwise it’s horseradish, mustard, and green food colouring. Real wasabi has a much sweeter aftertaste and it is not quite as hot, and it doesn’t have as much of a mustard flavour. The whole plant is edible and there are many leaves and stems left over when you’re harvesting the stalk itself. Various products are made from them: chocolate, and green wasabi beer is even brewed in Japan,” states Johan.
Wasabi is expensive to produce and takes one to one and a half years to reach the right size for harvesting. The first Icelandic crop was harvested three weeks ago and is already available at two restaurants in Reykjavík: The Grill Market and Fish Market. “Wasabi is usually associated with sushi, and was originally used with sushi in Japan. But today it’s being used with all kinds of raw ingredients. For example, it’s being used now at The Grill Market alongside whale steak and it’s been used for cocktails so the possibilities are many,” states Ragnar.
The Grill Market head chef Haukur Már Hauksson is excited to offer the product at the restaurant. “Most Icelandic customers have not realized that the wasabi they have been eating is not real wasabi. And especially foreign travellers who know a little about Japanese cuisine have been very excited and everyone is really excited to try this new Icelandic raw ingredient. Most people are shocked to hear that someone is growing wasabi in Iceland,” he states.
Producers Johan and Ragnar have already been contacted by Michelin-starred restaurants abroad asking to try their product. Preparation for export is underway and could start before the end of this year.