Two Catalans manage to reproduce one of the most complex Japanese crops on a farm in Viladrau 

If you think you've eaten wasabi, you're probably wrong, and you've only tried a substitute for this Japanese seasoning, a green paste with horseradish, mustard, and a small percentage of the wasabi plant leaf, which justifies its name. commercial. The authentic one is a fresh product, obtained by scratching the trunk of the plant of the same name (Wasabia japonica), which grows wild in the mountains of Japan, on the banks of the rivers. Recently, it has also been cultivated in greenhouses on the northern slope of Montseny, in a farm in Viladrau (Barcelona). Arnau Riba, a permacultor, and Pau Gelman, an agricultural engineer, are the founders of Yamaaoi, a company that cultivates and markets wasabi in the first crop of this species in the Mediterranean, and one of the few in Europe.

They are called Mediterranean wasabi, and this has been a result of their perseverance and perseverance, as well as the weather on the northern slope of Montseny, which is quite similar to the mountains where this plant grows naturally. "It's a very difficult crop," Gelman says, but the cold, humid climate and the sheer water of Montseny's water have made it possible to get past it, in a forest where deciduous, chestnut and oak trees abound. It all started three years ago with a 30-square-meter pilot test that mimicked the natural environment of the wasabi, and about 300 units, with which they have learned to take care of the plant and overcome the difficulties that grow out of the its habitat. It is also a long crop, so they had to wait more than two years to start harvesting.

During this period, the changes of time, from summer heat to winter frosts and pests, often fungi, have been the main obstacles, which have been overcome by research, technology and some secrets that cannot be revealed. But it has turned out that the northern part of Montseny, due to its environmental characteristics, with an ideal temperature and humidity, and very pure water, has allowed this beloved trunk to grow, a delight of Japanese cuisine, which they have been selling since the past. October. Wasabi cultivation should be maintained at a temperature of between 12 and 15 degrees, with a greenhouse located in a shady area, where technological devices are installed that send alerts if conditions change. habitat. In addition, they have set pebbles on the floor to mimic the terrain of the riverbed.

This wasabi has nothing to do with the industrial one. From each plant grows a trunk, which is the noblest part and from which isabi paste is obtained, but from this plant everything is used. Japanese cuisine has recipes for cooking whole, from leaves, to roots, shoots or flowers. The trunk weighs about 100 grams and is stored in the fridge for two to four weeks after collection. To consume it, grate the trunk, with a wasabi-specific grater, and serve as a seasoning for fish or meat. You have to wait two minutes after grating to consume it, so that it is oxygenated, and eat for the next 15 minutes. This is because wasabi is evolving, in this time itchy and sweeter. A bite of fresh wasabi is very different from the industrial one. "The taste in the mouth has nothing to do with the pasta we are used to," explains Gelman. "The sensation is much cooler and more complex at the sensory level, it is a very different experience," he says.

Wasabi is often eaten with raw fish, as it has antibacterial and antiseptic properties, making fish ingestion safe without cooking. But this food has many medicinal properties, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects and is a great source of vitamin C. Yamaaoi company already has about 1000 square meters cultivated in different greenhouses, and with the good reception of the product, the forecast is to keep growing. But not only with wasabi. Yamaaoi is eager to try new Japanese cuisine products, which are not being grown here either, and offer another surprise to the market. England, Canada, the United States, Australia or South Africa are other countries where the wasabi plant has been grown.

It is a gourmet product already bought by the most exclusive Japanese restaurants, such as Koy Shunka, Pakta or Dos Palillos, as well as high-end signature cuisine restaurants, such as the Can Roca Winery or Enigma. In addition, one month ago the authentic wasabi can be found in two shops in Barcelona, ​​such as UM Sabors de Asia, in Gràcia, and Tofu Català, in the Eixample. Rafael Gutiérrez, from a Flavors of Asia, explains that he has been selling it for a month and has been very well received. They do not sell whole logs, but smaller pieces, weighing between 8 and 15 grams, which cost between 10 and 20 euros. "We were really excited to have a product that is originally only in Japan," says Gutierrez. The promoters of this crop want to continue specializing in Japanese agriculture. But yamaaoi (mountain mauve), which is also called wasabi and comes from the name of the company, is already his hallmark.