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Half Moon Bay Wasabi Co

Stashed in: Good Eats!, San Francisco!, Plants!, San Francisco

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Fresh wasabi is nothing like that stuff you get in supermarket sushi. I was surprised to find that these guys grow it in the Bay Area!

They are electricians-turned-farmers:

What most American sushi restaurants serve as wasabi is actually powdered white horseradish mixed with food dye, and thought, why not be the first to offer a fresh California product?

"As electricians, even, we're always looking for a niche to make our business stand out," Roller says. "He came up with that, and it was definitely a niche."

After launching three years ago in a Half Moon Bay greenhouse, they're now California's only commercial grower of the light green rhizome, and just one of a handful in the country. Their product can be found in as many as 30 restaurants in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York and St. Louis, including non-Japanese ones like Bar Tartine and Saison, as well as a few local Japanese markets.

Roller and Hall spend Mondays harvesting, then work as electricians the rest of the time. On a good week, they sell as much as 25 pounds of wasabi. When contracting work is slow, they have more time to experiment.

"It's all trial and error," says Roller. "There are no books out there for us to read."

The knee-high plants are entirely edible, with large leaves and tall petioles, or stalks, that Roller likes to put in a Bloody Mary.

But it's the rhizome - more of a bulb than a root - that makes fresh wasabi. It takes a wasabi plant 18 months to two years to produce rhizomes of decent size and quality; a generous plant can yield around seven of them in large (about 7 or 8 inches long), medium and small sizes.

I never stopped to think about where wasabi comes from before you stashed this article.

The wasabi is available at Nijiya Market in San Francisco and San Mateo, Suruki Market in San Mateo and at for $35 per quarter-pound. It's also served at Bay Area restaurants such as Ace Wasabi, Bar Tartine, Nojo, Michael Mina, Saison and Umami, all in San Francisco; Morimoto in Napa; Hana Restaurant in Rohnert Park; Wakuriya in San Mateo; and Sakae in Burlingame.

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