Monday, January 12, 2009

The Seven Herbs of Spring

Yet another way to insure a healthy and evil-free New Year is to eat nanakusa, the seven herbs of spring. I usually forget about this. If I don't happen to be in the supermarket on January seven, I just forget.

Once ten years ago someone sent me a package of the seven herbs. It was very kind, but there was no letter or return address, so I had no idea who sent them or what they were exactly. I ate them anyways. I don't know about health, I was just happy I didn't croak.

This year, I was at the local supermarket on the special day. I even splurged and bought the fancy set of herbs, the non-dry kind. Only four bucks!

Every one of the herbs/grasses/veggies offers its own unique health benefits. I won't tell you how long (at least two hours) it took me to match real-life herb to fancy drawn picture.

Here are the detailed instructions that came with the herbs. Ignore the frog he's just there for color.

They all look quite different from one another. When I opened the package, however, it all looked pretty much like the same plant. Well, except for those bottom two. I identified them right away.

Suzuna, turnip! The paper says it makes the environment in your intestines good. I bet it does.

And then there was suzushiro, daikon radish. He's a little bugger, about the size of my pinky. And believe it or not he does exactly the same thing as turnip up there. So much for being unique.

Then things got terribly difficult. I THINK these are correct. Much time was spent on Google and consulting with my son who just wanted to play his guitar and didn't care one lick about the shape of a leaf or the length of a stem.

This should be seri, water dropwort. If you want to rid your body of poisons, improve your appetite and help your rheumatism. Here's the guy for you.

Next we have what just might be nazuna, shepherds purse. Nazuna helps your blood, improves your blood pressure and stuff like that.

Okay, here comes hotokenoza, nipplewort. (No, I'm not making these up as I go along.) Eating this will build you a better body.

Also had a little hakobera, chickweed. Oh boy! While looking at what this grass does I found that it is mostly used as a topical skin remedy, should probably not be taken internally, and contains nitrate. Great. Now I find this out.

And finally the fuzzy leafed gogyou, cudweed. Another appetizing name. This little fella stops coughing, clears mucous and works as a diuretic.

Remember I'm not sure the pictures match the actual description. In the end it doesn't matter because you wash all the grasses, lightly boil them, chop them to bits and then stew them in a big pot of rice gruel. Add a touch of salt for taste and voila! You have nanakusa okayu.

Of course, I was so excited I forgot to take a picture of the actual finished product so instead I'll present you with this.

Soda, the little cat with the ginormous head.


Pat said...

I cannot believe you ate something that came in the mail from some no-name person!!! The gruel dish sounds, well, yucky. Do you feel healthier after eating it?

Kappa no He said...

Pat, I was young and throwing caution to the wind, I think. It was a really fancy package. I can't believe I did it either. And yeah, the okayu tastes sorta bitter. Healthy? I kinda feel nitrate-y.

Anonymous said...

Oh my... I ditto the above.. you sure are brave Terrie!!!

But you know.. I love to grill daikon leaves... I LOVE IT..

The nekko chan picture... you are seriously cracking me up.... this is funnycute... haha

Leenie said...

So glad I found your blog. Fun! Like your New Year's traditions much better that the US' til your plastered and take a week to recover. And even in arctic weather it would be easy to watch the sun rise since it doesn't come up until 8:30 (that is if it isn't totally obscured by clouds). Now if I can only find a huge bell....

Hilary said...

That sounds like fun, but I'd probably still be researching it on Google while the herbs wither away and die. That cat is crazy cute! I love how that photo turned out.. too funny.

Gina said...

I think it's cool that you made the nanakusa-gayu! I've never tried it before, but I would be up to giving it a try! : )

And love your cat's pic! :D

Ello said...

So I was thinking that nipplewort should build a better bust not body. That way it makes sense right?

So you make it and how do you eat it? Over rice?

Kappa no He said...

GirlJapan, you know had it been some form of chocolate there would have been no question. But weedy looking things? I must have been hungry. Ha! I've boiled daikon leaves but grilling. You're a genius!

Leenie, you live two hours outside Yellowstone! How cool is that? I love your blog. I used to live in Alaska and have a very soft place in my heart for moose(s).

Thank you Hilary, I still think I got them wrong. Those herbs. It was much more difficult that I thought it would be. Not like, say, identifying an M&M as opposed to a Hershey's Kiss.

Gina, hey! My friend said she cooked chicken into hers. I thought, THAT would have made it taste a little better. I recomend chicken.

Ello, maybe it's code. Like in the old days 'body' meant 'bust'? Actually something on the vine was shaped like a nipple, evidently, I'm afraid I didn't see it.

And, nope, just soggy rice with egg dropped in. Not bad, really. Needed chicken.

Anonymous said...

Very funny and entertaining. All of the leaves looked alike to me, but I am sure they are very healthy.

Anonymous said...

Omedetou Kappa-sama,
I've been busy getting ready for the spring term at a new college, so I haven't been keeping up with your essays. Just scanned through the ones I missed, and they're great as usual.
I no longer have the commute around the Beltway and my BP is down to normal again already. Fifteen minutes to get to work. The students are quite different - they're mostly from South Asia, Middle East, Eastern Europe, and East Asia. My previous students were African, Afro-Caribbean, and Latin American. I don't think my new students are quite as serious as the previous ones, but I think they're better prepared for college. The jr. college here seems much more professional. That might be a problem for me after working for so long at the other place, but the people seem nice, and there are actually a couple of colleagues who aren't as uptight as the ones I left. It's hard to admit this, but I worked for 10 years at the last place, and I didn't make even a casual friendship with anyone there except the secretaries.
We went back to Iowa for Christmas. Six below when we got there and -12 the next night. The interstate was closed at one point because the high winds had blown enough snow on the road to form black ice. We had to leave the day after Christmas so Momo could get back to work on the following Monday, but that was at the same time as a major warm front pushed up from the south. That warm, moist air over the very cold ground produced fog. We ended up driving through 500 miles of 1/4 mile visibility fog, from the Ia-Ill border to Ohio, before I gave up. Fortunately, I've had a lot of experience with stressful driving (see Beltway above), so we arrived OK. Just a few nights ago it was -32 in Ames. That's f'ing COLD! Asked my mom about it the next morning, and she said that it was a sunny 70 degrees in her livingroom. People around here whine when it gets below freezing, and you'd think the world was going to end if you listened to their fearful speech about the +1 degree temps last night.
I am worried a little about the inauguration because of the weather. Most people around here don't understand that if you're just standing around, 30 degrees (the forecast for Tuesday) is pretty cold. The initial prediction was for 4 MILLION people, but it looks more like about 6-700,000. I refuse to go. It's going to be a zoo. My favorite now of all the things they've done, such as closing all the bridges from Va into DC, is that they've declared the Mall area a "prostitution free zone". They left out a hyphen in all those (red!) signs they posted downtown. I'm very worried about politicians who believe that posting signs like that will deter hookers and robbers. This is the same group that thought that banning handguns would keep criminals in DC from using them.
Oh well, can't complain too much. With the MLK holiday and inauguration, I've got a 5-day weekend.
More later,
P.S. I noticed that my favorite herb, the one with the seeds in the shichimi, was missing from the list. Happy New Year!

Kappa no He said...

Prostitution-Free Zone. Prostitution FREE Zone! God, I love that. I'm gonna e-mail you a long one.