As a Japanese-American, I have enjoyed eating natto for much of my life. I was introduced to natto by my aunt during visits to see my grandparents in Japan. She would serve me what, to her, was a normal breakfast consisting of rice and natto, miso soup with clams and sometimes a pickled salad. Born and raised in America, I thought this was pretty odd and may not have been entirely happy at first, but I did learn to love natto there.
In Japan, one can buy delicious fresh natto in just about any food shop. In a few places in America like NYC, natto may be found in Asian specialty groceries. However, I was always disappointed that the available natto is always imported frozen from Japan, packaged wastefully in non-recyclable styrofoam/plastic, and made from low quality GMO soy. I wished there was a good alternative.
I'm also a microbiologist and particularly interested in fermented foods made with the help of friendly microorganisms which contribute so very much to our health and to the health of our planet (see MISSION page). Natto (and its close relatives: see more recent BLOG posts) are the only widespread fermented food made with the benign microbe Bacillus subtilis. This bacteria is now recognized as an important member of our gut microbiome, the diverse community of microorganisms living inside of us.
So I decided to spend last summer in Japan with my sons to learn more about natto and how to make it. That is the beginning of the story of how the idea for NYrture New York Natto was born.