The Japanese calendar is filled with many food rituals. While we start the year off with a big bang with お節料理 osechi ryōri, the next event is a nourishing bowl of rice porridge with seven greens, 七草粥 nanakusa gayu. Kayu is rice porridge and nanakusa refers to the seven edible greens. The daikon and turnip are also chopped up and cooked with the rice.
In order clockwise the haru no nanakusa 春の七草:
- 仏の座 ほとけのざ Lapsana apogonoides – nipplewort
- 菘 すずな Brassica rapa – turnip
- 薺 なずな Capsella bursa – shepherd’s purse
- 蘩蔞 はこべら Stellaria neglecta – chickweed
- 蘿蔔 すずしろ（大根）Raphanus sativus – daikon
- 御形 ごぎょう Gnaphalium affine – cudweed
- 芹 せり Oenanthe javanica – water dropwort
These are the traditional seven greens that are sold in packs at the supermarket, but in the past the seven were not decided. Seven edible sprouting greens were picked and cooked in a hot soup. So even if you are not in Japan with access to these seven, you could create your own version in your home countries using seven greens.
The ritual of eating this soup on January 7th, in the past was believed to ward off evil spirits and keep your home from disease and disaster. Nowadays it is eaten with the spirit of good health for the year. It is a simple and healthful bowl that is a big contrast to the big meals at the beginning of the new year.
To make okayu we wash one cup of rice a few times. In a pot add three cups of water to the uncooked, washed rice and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium low and simmer until the rice becomes soft. Stir occasionally to prevent the rice from sticking to the pot. Meanwhile wash and finely chop the seven greens, including the root vegetables. Add to the rice porridge and cook until cooked through. Season to taste with salt.
Here is my favorite iron chef, Kimio Nonaga, on youtube with his take on nanakusa ryōri, dishes made using the seven greens.
In the autumn, there is also a collection of seven greens 秋の七草 aki no nanakusa, but these are not meant for eating, but for appreciating the beauty of the seven plants.
- 萩 はぎ Japanese clover
- 尾花 おばな Japanese pampas grass
- 葛の花 くずのはな kudzu flowers
- 撫子 なでしこ pink dianthus carnation
- 女郎花 おみなえし patrinia honeysuckle
- 藤袴 ふじばかま thoroughwort
- 桔梗 ききょう bellflower