On the seventh day of the first month, the Japanese prepare and eat a rice porridge containing seven herbs—a custom which is believed to bring longevity and good health. Traditionally the seven herbs are water dropwort, shepherd’s purse, cudweed, chickweed, nipplewort, turnip, and daikon.
Since the herbs used are some of the first greens to appear in the year (and some of them are edible weeds like chickweed), you might adapt this custom by looking at what is seasonally available in your area and making a salad.
This is the earliest of many holidays that dictate eating early greens in spring, like the bitter herbs of Passover or the mint jelly served with the Easter ham. These bitter flavors help wake up digestion and sluggish systems after the rich foods of the holiday season.
The custom began in China, so you could also wait for the seventh day of the first Chinese month—February 14 this year—to eat your seven herbs.
Waverly Fitzgerald is a writer, teacher, and calendar priestess who has studied the lore of holidays and the secrets of time for decades. She shares her research and her thoughts on her Living in Season website and in her book, Slow Time. She is currently working on a series of essays about looking for nature in the city and blogs for the Seattle PI as the “Urban Naturalist.”