Monday, January 07, 2013

Seven Herb Rice Gruel

Today, January 7, is traditionally a special food day in Japan. People eat seven freshly harvested veggies, herbs, and roots. We had this dish at my temple in Okayama, as a way to say thanks to the way the days were getting longer, while it was still very cold, but in the fields, some greens were beginning to thrive.

七草粥 nana kusa kayu means "Seven herb rice gruel" but that is just a part of the story.

These seven varieties of 草 kusa or herbs, also include some 采 sai or na (brassica) which are nutritious and something we should all eat a lot more of.

One thought was that after indulging in all kinds of delicious New Year foods, on this day, people would welcome something so very simple. Our bodies, of course, prefer veggies, and a lot of veggies. We are not particularly well equipped for indulgence. Speaking of equipped, we are more prone to survive poverty than opulence. From a long-term perspective, humans can deal with having less, but not with having more. Fat, sugar, meat and less exercise are not what we are used to.

I like how the seven herb rice gruel is a reminder of that.

A quick google search for nana-kusa-gayu in Japanese gives 593,000 results.

Nice.



Recipe:

Boil seven types of fresh herbs and roots*
Rice
Water

* If you can grow them, here are seven great-tasting herbs and roots that we enjoy this time of year, early January, fresh from our fertile fields in Japan:

Suzushiro
Suzuna
Hotokenoza
Seri
Nazuna
Gogyou
Hakobera

Some English names for the above plants are Water dropwort, Shepherd's purse, Cudweed, Chickweed, Nipplewort, turnip and radish. I like how the Swedish word ört (herb) has been incorporated as "wort" in English. Vikings from Scandinavia brought a lot to Britain...

Meanwhile, here in Japan, supermarkets continue to sell special sets on this day, which include all the usual seven veggies.

Here is a google image search result for that!



3 comments:

TenThousandThings said...

This sounds delicious except for the word "gruel".

Pandabonium said...

Goodbye gruel world!

Just kidding. I spotted and bought a package of locally grown nanakusa-gayu the other day and my wife was very proud of me for remembering and cooked it up for us last night.

The first time I had this was at Kashimajingu shrine. My very first blog post - back in 2005 - mentions coming across a group of women in my neighborhood who were picking seri for nanakusa-gayu.

"we are more prone to survive poverty than opulence" - absolutely true. Calorie restriction is one key for longevity. Leafy greens are another key. I often include a mix of herbs in salads. The more variety of leafy greens one eats, the better.

Nice new year post. Thanks!



Martin J Frid said...

Thanks for the comments! Agreed, maybe I should have skipped the "gruel" and just called it "kayu" or "-gayu" instead. But it really is a very thin rice porridge, so gruel is technically correct...

Interesting to know it was served at the shrine too.