December 11, 2010

Haru no Nanakusa (Seven Herbs of Spring)/春の七草

The following is mainly based on the description on page 33 of the book on edible wild herbs published by Shufu to Seikatsu Sha Co., Ltd.

1. Seri
Picking season: March to early summer
Uses: Wash well and add to salad; boil quickly and use as or in ohitashi, aemono, nabe, etc.

Warning: Don't confuse seri with doku zeri (Cicuta virosa), which is poisonous.
The first three photos here show doku zeri, while the bottom two photos show seri. Doku zeri has a much longer stem, and has a big, hollow root (top right photo).

2. Nazuna (penpen gusa)
Picking season: November to next April and May
Pick young leaves.
Uses: Boil and soak in water and use as or in nibitashi*1, aemono, etc.
*1 Nibitashi refers to a dish in which the ingredients are simmered in dashi.
Ni (simmered) + Bitashi (< Hitashi (souced)).

3. Ogyo (hahako gusa)
Note (added on Jan. 9): This book calls this plant ogyo, but it is more commonly known as gogyo.
注(1月9日に追加): この本では、この植物を「オギョウ」と呼んでいますが、「ごぎょう」「ゴギョウ」のほうが一般的です。
Picking season: Fall to next May
Pick young leaves and stalks.
Uses: Boil and soak in water, drain, and use as or in ohitashi, tempura, or kusa dango*2.
*2 In days of old, kusa dango (and kusa mochi) were made with ogyo. Yomogi (mugwort) is now commonly used instead.

4. Hakobe
Picking season: March to May
Any time of the year in warm places.
Uses: Boil quickly and soak in water, and use as or in nibitashi or sunomono; chop (don't boil) and add to soup.

5. Hotokenoza (kooni tabirako)
Picking season: Winter to spring
Pick leaves.
Uses: Boil and soak in water throughly, and use as or in ohitashi or itamemono (stir-fried dishes); add to soup; make tsukudani with it.

Note: Hotokenoza as in the seven herbs of spring refers to kooni tabirako, not henbit.
Two photos here clearly show the difference between hotokenoza (purple flowers on the left) and kooni tabirako (yellow flowers on the right).

6. Suzuna (kabu), turnip
Picking season: Not specified.
Uses of leaves are not mentioned.

7. Suzushiro (daikon)
Picking season: Not specified.
Uses: Add to soup; use in abura itame (stir-fries); and make ichiya zuke (quick (one-night) pickles).

(Japanese text omitted)/日本語は省略


Rose said...

Hello! I love your post! Soon I will be moving to Toyota City from Seattle and I want to experience traditional Japanese cuisine and foods. I would really like to forage for food in the forest. Can you please suggest some guide books and recipes?

Thank you!

Hiroyuki said...

Rose: I can't suggest a single book myself, but here is some useful information here:

Toyota? What a great city!

tama Matsuoka said...

Hiroyuki-san...I was JUST thinking of nanakusa and wondering about the henbit because there is a lot of confusing information. By the way, the henbit is up now in the US wintertime AND tastes good cooked with rice. But WHAT IS the LATIN NAME FOR KOONI TABIRAKO? I would like to see if we can find it in the US.

Hiroyuki said...

tama Matsuoka:
Kooni tabirako: Lapsana apogonoides

from here:

There really is confusing information about henbit in Japan. Some say it's not edible, some even say it's poisonous, while others say it's not poisonous but is not good to eat.
The fact seems to be that henbit contains iridoids,
which may have some adverse effects if consumed in large quantitities.

tama Matsuoka said...

henbit---lamium amplexicaule is fine to eat and the chefs are working with it. also they are eating in europe where it originated and have recipes for it. also in north america. lapsana apogonoides is not in the US.

tama matsuoka said...

do you know how I can get a copy of the article/magazine?

Hiroyuki said...

tama Matsuoka:
Do a google search for:
(title of the book)
and you get an Amazon webpage at the top of the list.

tama matsuoka said...

Thank you so much Hiroyuki-san. My uncle will order and my father will help translate the words I do not know.
Do you know: tsuyukusa? This comes up wild in spring in the US. Do you have a recipe?

Hiroyuki said...

tama Matsuoka:
Good for you! As for tsuyukusa, here is some info here in JAPANESE:

In short, pick young stems, in May through September. Boil quickly and eat as/in ohitashi or aemono.

tama said...

I have received the book from my cousin and going through it with my father. It is very exciting. I am wondering what is the latin name for kusafuji. There are many types of vicia species (vetch family) and some are edible and some not....

Hiroyuki said...

Tama: Congratulations!!!

Is kusafuji Vicia cracca?

tama said...

hiroyuki-san . sorry for the long absence but I have been busy working on my book with the chef on sansai no aji. please find "Foraged Flavor" on :
This is the pre-order link in Japan for the book. The French chefs very much respect and appreciate the Japanese culture and sansai taste.

I am so grateful for your information and the japanese book on wild edible plants.

tama said...


Hiroyuki said...

tama: It's been a long time, tama-san! I'm really glad that you have created a wonderful book on wild edible plants! I will order the book, and provide a review on my blog.

I have to say I'm sorry about the itadori jam, which I chose not to make at the last minute, as I mentioned here:

tama said...

Hi Hiroyuki-san. We have an itadori jam recipe in the book with ginger that I hope you will love. the book is not shipped until june 2012 but if you would like an advance copy in the spring for review please tell me and I will ask the publisher to send you a special copy, in grateful thanks...

Hiroyuki said...

tama: Thank you for your kind offer, but I think I should wait for the book to be officially released. Besides, I have just made an advance order through the link you provided.

I hope more and more people learn to have sansai through your book!

tama said...

Hi Hiroyuki-san. I just read that "Asian people boil the young leaves in spring" of celastrus orbiculatus. This would be great as a lot of it here....Do you know anything about it?


Hiroyuki said...

tama-san: Unfortunately, I know nothing of that plant. None of the sites I found contains such a description
In Japan, it seems to be mostly used as a garden tree and in flower arrangement (ikebana).

Roberto said...

Hiroyuki San puedo usar las imágenes que publicastes para traducirla y estudiar sobre las plantas