Another old local tradition, on the 7th day of the New Year, you prepare an okayu (rice porridge) that you garnish with 7 wild herbs that favor good health. That’s the Japanese style post-holiday detox if you want. So I’ve bought my set of 7 herbs for tomorrow.
I took the image from the Japanese blog “kyo mo egao de” and I roughly translate the explanation for each plant :
Clockwise (starting from upper right)
1.●すずなsuzuna : helps digestion, good for frostbites and freckles
2.●すずしろ suzushiro : stop the cough, good for health of stomach and mental diseases
3. ●なずなnazuna : good for eyesight and for the 5 big organs
4. ●ほとけのざ hotoke no za : alleviates toothache
5. ●はこべらhakobera : good for urination and for the gums
6. ●せり seri : helps digestion, cures jaundice
7. ●ごきょうgogyou : effective for nausea, phlegm, fever.
Suzuna is another name for turnip, and suzushiro for daikon radish. Seri is still a common veggie/salad now in Japan. The others are wild herbs not eaten often now, and even in old times, they were probably medicinal plants and everyday food.
The nanagusa (7 herbs)
(click to get wiki articles) is a very old tradition, that was already mentioned in the Manyoshu, a poem anthology written in 8th Century.
Japan used the lunar calendar until the end of 19th Century, so this food was a little later, after what is now Chinese New Year… Now look at what I got in my basket :
Do you see the 7 ? Only 5, it seems… Ok, maybe 6. One is missing.
Usually you pay people to clean your garden from such weeds. Those were sold a crazy price. No, I didn’t need a credit, but I mean per kilo, the price is close to that of caviar. And I don’t want to take chances with my health, if one herb is missing… what happens ?
Let’s check again :
The package mentioned the 7 herbs… you can see the photo of the farmer and his son. That means it’s organic and not cheap, so I should be able to call Mr Kitazaki in Oita prefecture to protest.
Trivia not related with today’s herb. The situation is not exceptional, I don’t want to single out this farmer as I think most farms work the same way. It’s just let you see have a glimpse at Japanese society today, the industrial and agriculture world.
The agri-facebook indicated that farm has 3 employees.
They also have 7 part-time workers (which can mean anything from full-time employees with limited term contracts renewed for years to staff hired for one day or even one hour whenever they are needed). Plus at some time, they have had *real trainees*, students of agriculture university and high-school (that combine study and work). And they have 7 “long term trainees from China”. These *trainees* work full-time very probably. Do they receive the standard salary, or less, or way less ? I can’t tell for this case. They are called trainees but they are cheaper migrant workers for agriculture and industry. I’m glad to have fresh vegetables, but…
So let’s count :
suzuna, I would have eaten the leaves too, well, that’s OK.
suzushiro, idem, I could have had the leaves.
hotoke no za
seri... and it’s a good exercise for eyesight, you can see under the it, the tip of the roots of a small nazuna.
So I consider I’m safe with my 7 herbs.
Tomorrow the okayu and its recipe :