food forum

SPIRIT OF THE SEASONS Vol. 37 No. 1 Spring 2023



Nanohana is a tasty harbinger of spring in Japan. It is so evocative of the season that references to this flowering plant are commonly used in haiku, to evoke the sensibility of spring. Sometimes referred to as canola or rapeseed (Brassica napus), its small, bright yellow edible flowers are in season during early spring, from January through March. Nanohana is thought to be native to the Mediterranean, and was introduced to Japan in the eighth century. Most tender before blossoming, it is recommended to select bunches with tightly closed, densely packed flower buds.

Nanohana ohitashi

This highly nutritious vegetable is rich in minerals, antioxidants and vitamins; much of the plant can be eaten, including stalks, leaves and buds. Its distinctive fresh “green” fragrance is underscored by a mild bitterness that turns sweet when cooked. A quintessential ingredient in spring cuisine, the versatile nanohana may be boiled and served as an ohitashi dressed with dashi and soy sauce, to which sesame or karashi Japanese mustard may be added. It is also delicious when simply sautéed.

Vol. 37