WTF* Is That? It's Wasabi Root. Or is it?

I'm uncertain what the heck this vegetable actually is

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By David Hammond

At the Oak Park Farmer's Market on Saturday, we saw some cucumber-looking vegetables at Nichol's and thought maybe they were a kind of radish. We were told it was wasabi root.

Just last week, we had a beautiful bowl of sashimi at Roka Akor. Chef Ce Bian sent a server to our table to grind some fresh wasabi root to use as a condiment with the sashimi; he said this vegetable was selling for about $100 for a pound.

The wasabi we had at Roka Akor was quite subtle compared to the de- and then re-hydrated wasabi powder we have at home and at most sushi restaurants; it was almost sweet, though it packed considerable heat (so much so that I could hardly bear to use it on the perfect fish we had that night).

Nichol's was selling what they said was wasabi for $2 for a pound. I'm assuming the stuff at Roka Akor had some exotic, expensive lineage that justified the price (rare Japanese items are notoriously costly: hundreds of dollars for watermelons; half a million plus for a tuna, etc.).

Emily Dorian, who was working the Nichol's stand, explained that the root was actually in cold storage all winter, so this was last year's crop.  This year's crop won't be in until August.

Getting home, I cut some thin slices of the fresh vegetable…and was a little surprised that it turned out to be exceptionally mild, perhaps one-fiftieth as hot as the wasabi at Roka Akor, which might explain the price difference. Or was what I bought not really wasabi at all? It tasted more like a semi-hot radish than wasabi, which bears a strong resemblance to the more familiar horseradish. And looking at pictures of wasabi online, the exterior of my vegetable seemed not gnarly-looking enough.

So I'm uncertain.

If you're reading this, and you can positively identify the vegetable in the picture, please post here.

*WTF is acronym for "What at The Farmers' market." Why, what did you think the acronym meant?

Reader Comments

5 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 21st, 2013 3:18 PM

Green daikon seems to describe it very well. Thanks, Essag.

Essag from Scottsdale  

Posted: May 21st, 2013 3:01 PM

That is what you call a Green Daikon.

Dr Brian Oates from Vancouver  

Posted: May 21st, 2013 10:01 AM

No, that is definitely not real Wasabi. Real Wasabi retails for $100/lb and the rhizome looks like a knobby green carrot.

Michael  

Posted: May 20th, 2013 9:45 PM

It's a radish often called a wasabi radish due to the heat/spice of the radish. I'm sure the person just misspoke...first day of the season they sell it next to a few other varieties of radish

Savannah from Oak Park  

Posted: May 20th, 2013 12:52 PM

This looks like a Korean radish used to make different kinds of kimchi. I don't know the English name of the vegetable, but in Korean it is called "mu." What a cool find! http://www.maangchi.com/ingredient/korean-radish

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