A Japanese New Year’s Tradition: Feast of the Seven Herbs of Health!

It is a Japanese tradition to eat nanakusa gayu, a rice porridge made with seven herbs, on January 7.

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What herbs are in nanakusa gayu?

These herbs are:

  • Water dropwort (seri, Oenanthe javanica)
  • Shepherd’s purse (nazuna)
  • Cudweed (gogyō, Gnaphalium affine)
  • Chickweed (hakobera, Stellaria media)
  • Nipplewort (hotokenoza, Lapsana apogonoides)
  • Turnip (suzuna)
  • Daikon (suzushiro)

How did the tradition begin?

According to the Japan Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, this tradition came to Japan in the late 19th century, and it is believed to bring longevity and health and ward off evil. Japanese people also eat this porridge to rest their digestive system which might be weakened by osechi (Japanese traditional New Year’s food) and other new year’s feasts.

How do I make nanakusa gayu?

It is very easy to make. All you need is to add chopped nanakusa (the herbs mentioned above, available at Japanese grocery stores) to rice porridge and flavor with salt. You can also add katsuobushi (dried tuna flakes) or konbu when you eat.