Does this look like wasabi root to you? Courtesy 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?

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David Hammond

David Hammond, a corporate communications consultant and food journalist living in Oak Park, Illinois, is a founder and moderator of, the 8,500 member Chicago-based culinary chat site. David...

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