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  • Writer's pictureChrissie Manion Zaerpoor

Wasabi at Kookoolan Farms

My first experience with wasabi was as a little green pile next to nigiri salmon. Yours too?

Real Wasabi in Oregon

As a Kookoolan Farms Blog reader, you get a first notification about special offers that the rest of our customers don’t see. We’re going to bring in some wasabi products to complement our sushi-grade seafood. The wasabi is available in many different forms, different items, and much of it perishable. However, we aren’t able to regularly carry all of these options in our small storefront. We’re asking for your help choosing how to offer wasabi. For the next SEVEN days ONLY, our members will be able to order a large number of types of wasabi. The most popular three or so items that you all select in the next week will become the shorter list of products that get offered to our general customer list next week. We will carry those products in our store on an ongoing basis.

Most likely, you encountered wasabi for the first time as a little ball of paste next to a sushi roll; perhaps you were surprised when you tried it and a delightful, fiery sensation shot up your sinuses and made your eyes water! If you’re like me, that first encounter was the start of a lifelong spicy love affair.

Chances are, though, unless you have dined in Japan, that the “wasabi” you’ve experienced is nothing more than a doppelgänger! Due to the particular environment required for wasabi to flourish, western sushi restaurants, much of the time, use normal horseradish root dyed green with food coloring. What a ruse!

If you want to learn more about the history of wasabi and its introduction into Western culture, check out our blog post here!

Authentic Japanese Wasabi may seem like a strange topic for a Kookoolan Farms blog post, so here’s the hook. We’ve been carrying sushi-grade seafood for years now. Many of you have been visibly intrigued by the idea of DIY-at-home sushi as you stand at our seafood freezer gazing at the goods. But, we all know it’s a huge hassle to have to visit multiple specialty stores to pull off a single meal.

Chrissie and Koorosh in Tokyo, 2006

Koorosh and Chrissie are both longtime fans of Japanese food and woodworking, which influenced the American Arts & Crafts movement. The substitution of colored horseradish for the real thing has strong analogies to the deliberate hijacking of other real foods such as beef and chicken, wild seafood, and honey. We feel a kinship with the founders of Oregon Wasabi Farm, whose origin story is not so different from Kookoolan Farms’ story. It’s 20 miles from Kookoolan Farms to sushi anything, so out here, we realized we needed to curate all these components so that we could create sushi in our own kitchen!

For decades, the limiter to the sushi industry’s growth was a worldwide shortage of wasabi, grown only in a very small area of Japan under very closely-guarded, secretive conditions. A local business, Oregon Wasabi Farm, has unlocked the secret of growing fresh wasabi here in Oregon! Much like the Willamette Valley is analogous to the wine-growing regions of Boudreaux, which allow Pinot Noir grapes to flourish here in Oregon; so, the Oregon Coast is equivalent to the Shizuoka prefecture of Japan and share similar ecology and latitude. Wasabi plants need a lot of water in fast-draining soil and are fairly photophobic, so the rainy and shady weather in the PNW is an ideal environment. In this climate, wasabi can be grown and harvested year-round, so having a local grower means that fresh wasabi is available every season!

Bringing locally-grown wasabi into the farmstore at Kookoolan Farms is part of our plan to complement our sashimi-grade seafood products with everything “Sushi”. We already have locally brewed Gluten-Free Yamasa Tamari (made in Salem, Oregon!), fresh pickled ginger slices from Classic Foods out of Portland, and our three varieties of Saké from our neighbor SakéOne brewery, just up Highway 47 in Forest Grove! A top-tier Sushi experience at home may sound like an impossible undertaking, but it’s easier than you think.

Fresh wasabi is sold as the root, or rhizome. Like many other roots (think carrot or potato), a fresh wasabi root will last a couple of months in the refrigerator. We will be carrying these rhizomes in 1/4 lb packages, a specialized super fine grater for making wasabi paste, a number of plant starters for your home garden, and as a powder.

Authentic wasabi powder is easy to use: mix 2 parts wasabi powder with 1 part water, and let rest ten minutes for full hydration. In practice, this means about 2 tsp powder with 1 tsp water, and then set the two blobs on two plates while you prep the rest of your DIY sushi meal! The aroma of real wasabi begins to fade after just 20 minutes or so, which is why real aficionados prefer to freshly grate the root just at the moment of use!

Ordering your Sushi Ingredients

As a Kookoolan Farms Blog reader, you get early notification of all our news and first dibs to reserve some of this miraculous ingredient. Only you, and only for the next week, get this full selection of so many ways to get wasabi. You can have anything you want, and we will bring in your order just for you. Only the top few items will be offered to the rest of our customer base next week and will be carried as regular items in our farmstore. You get to help us choose!

Here are all the ways you can bring wasabi into your garden or kitchen, Follow the “Order Wasabi” link to send us an email with your desired order. Wasabi orders will be ready for pick up the weekend of May 7-9th!

Fresh Real Wasabi Rhizome, bulk, $7/oz (specify approximately how much you want)

¼ Lb Fresh Real Wasabi Rhizome plus grater - $40

Fresh Wasabi Starter Plant to grow yourself- $22/ea

Wasabi Grater - $12/ea

Wasabi Powder, 1.5 oz package - $20

Wasabi All-Purpose Seasoning Salt, 2 oz glass bottle - $15

Lemon-Wasabi All-Purpose Seasoning Salt, 2 oz glass bottle - $15

Wasabi Cocktail Rim Salt in tin, 3.5 oz $18

Order Wasabi

Want to add some Saké to your order? Check out our new offerings from SakéOne!

Silver Tokubetsu Junmai – Light, Crisp, with notes of citrus and green apple. 750ml - $16

Organic Junmai Ginjo – Refreshing melon and lime with delicate notes of pineapple and cola, and certified organic production. 750ml - $17

G Fifty Junmai Ginjo Genshu – Medium-dry notes of nectarine, grape, and pear. 750ml - $25

Saké it to me!

What is “Sushi-Grade” Seafood?

Of course, you can’t have sushi without fish! Check out our seafood offerings here and get the whole sushi experience in one order!

There is a myth that very fresh seafood is best for sushi, or perhaps that very hygienic harvesting methods must be used to for sushi-grade seafood. Neither of these is true. The risk with raw fish is live parasites and their live eggs. Killing these organisms requires that fish must be frozen at -4°F (-20°C) or colder for seven days or longer. At best, a residential grade freezer may reach 0°F (-18°C) in only its coldest spots, which does not meet these guidelines. And while freezing your own fish in your home refrigerator may seem better than nothing, slow-frozen fish does not make good sushi. When ice crystals form slowly, they grow large and rupture cell walls, forcing the flesh to release all of its liquid and flavor. The best way to freeze fish for sushi is an ultra-cold flash freezer, generally only available as commercial or medical equipment. Because the water freezes so rapidly, the ice crystals are very small, largely leaving the cell walls intact, and the flesh as good as fresh, but safer. Bringing in beautifully harvested and processed seafood through Ocean Beauty Distributing, one of the oldest and largest seafood distribution companies in the Northwest, assures the safety of eating seafood from Kookoolan Farms in its raw state.

At Home Sushi is a Click Away!

More to Come!

We’re looking forward to adding high-quality, short-grain sushi rice, seaweed wrappers, and bamboo mats for rolling, all coming very soon!

Please feel welcome to call us at (503) 730-7535 or email us at we're always happy to answer your questions.

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