Made in Vermont: Rhapsody Natural Foods

Published: Mar. 6, 2023 at 6:22 PM EST
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CABOT, Vt. (WCAX) - In the land of dairy and maple, Rhapsody Natural Foods is bringing something different to the mix. Miso, natto, koji, tempeh and mochi, to name a few things.

“We make that because my husband loves mochi,” Elysha Welters said. “We make products that we love.”

Elysha and her husband, Sjon, are at the helm of the operation. Their journey began in the Netherlands, where they discovered the Indonesian and Japanese foods they make today.

“[Sjon] studied it, he was always on YouTube, he had a lot of Japanese friends, he worked in Japanese restaurants,” said Elysha, who was running the show when we paid her a visit. She explained that the duo made their way to the U.S. in the 1980s.

“First, a year in Arkansas. That didn’t really work,” laughed Elysha. Eventually, they moved to Massachusetts, and later on, Vermont. Soon after, they opened a natural food restaurant in Montpelier.

“We had self-serve vegan food and a lot of Japanese food,” said Elysha. And even now that the restaurant is closed, fermented food is still on the menu. It’s all made in Cabot and sold at co-ops around the state. She says they’ve been very busy trying to keep up with demand as fermented foods rise in popularity.

“Our tempeh is the best because we make it in small batches,” said Elysha, who explained that they brought tempeh to Vermont. It’s a meat alternative, much like tofu.

Operations Manager Daiki Hirano says tempeh is even easier to digest than tofu because of the fermentation.

“It starts off very yellow, and then this white mycelium basically starts consuming the whole product and that’s what’s breaking down the soybeans,” Hirano explained.

Their other foods, like natto, are said to come with a number of health benefits.

“Doctors tell people, patients to eat natto because of heart disease,” said Elysha.

“All this slimy stuff, kind of similar to okra, is what’s really beneficial,” said Hirano, mixing a cup of natto with chopsticks. The cups of beans are shipped all around the world from the Cabot kitchen. They’re best served cold or at room temperature with a bit of soy sauce.

“And some mustard,” said Hirano. “It’s very popular to add scallions to it, as well.”

Whether you’re digging into natto, tempeh or any of their other flavorful products, you can bet they were made with love in Vermont. All of the products are gluten-free, vegan and certified organic.

“Happy eating,” laughed Hirano.