Site icon The Culinary Saijiki

Initial Observations Part 1: Food Kigo

I’m about seven weeks into my yearlong study of saijiki. While my personal writing practice isn’t centered around food, working with Higginson’s Haiku World, as well as the companion volume The Haiku Seasons, have been invaluable as I also explore the ways in which food and the seasons work in haiku.

Photo by Josh Hild on

As of this writing, I have collected 93 haiku that incorporate food in some way. Taking a cue from Haiku World, I am organizing them by season, as well as maintaining an All-Year category. Based on what I have collected so far, I have observed three broad categories:

  1. Food words that are a definite seasonal referent;
  2. Food words that are not a part of any specific season;
  3. Food words that become seasonal with an additional modifying word

I will focus on the first category in this post, the second category in my May 24th post, and the third category in my June 14th post.

Some Observations

At this point in the project, inherently seasonal food words make up the smallest proportion of haiku that I have collected. Most of the poems in my Scrivener file involve all-year food words, or foods that become seasonal through additional modifiers. The greatest proportion of inherently seasonal food words falls into the summer category. Spring and winter have the lowest proportions. However, I have nothing close to a statistically significant sample size, so I won’t be surprised if the proportions change as I go.

As I’m still early in my journey of collecting haiku, I’m only giving 2-3 examples for each season of food kigo.


As spring is the planting season, seeds are a specific kigo. Even if there is another food referent that might indicate a later season, as in Cherie Hunter Day’s haiku below, the presence of seeds grounds the poem in spring. Seeds speak to the potential food we will eat in the future.

hidden in the seed packet star songs

Stuart Barrow, bottle rockets #46

starting a lemon tree
from seed

Cherie Hunter Day, First Frost #1

The sugar maple is another image of food that is not yet ready for consumption. It also illustrates the challenge of working in two traditions. Sap harvesting season runs 4-6 weeks, and can start as early as February. While that’s still deep winter for those of us working with the Gregorian calendar, in the haiku calendar, it’s spring. There’s also no accounting for climate. You can be well past the spring equinox and still get snow in areas where sugar maples thrive!

sugar maple
pressing my tongue
against the wood

Genevieve Wynand, Kingfisher #3


The best iced tea is that which has been brewed slowly. Sun tea is a perfect summer beverage, and therefore a summer kigo. The heat of the sun allows for a long, slow infusion of tea leaves. Then, you can pour the tea over ice for a refreshing beverage.

my writing
slow as that snail
sun tea

John S. Green, First Frost #2

Tomatoes are one of the quintessential summer foods in the Western hemisphere. I remember that some years, my parents struggled to get theirs to thrive, and other years, we had more tomatoes than we could handle!

heirloom tomato
the want ads

Aidan Castle, Kingfisher #3

Ice cream is a treat best enjoyed in the summer. It’s cold, rich, and a delightful treat during hot weather. I still remember the ice cream socials held in June and July in the town where I grew up.

maternity dress
a scoop of homemade
ice cream

Deborah P. Kolodji, Kingfisher #3


Apples are a quintessential autumn fruit. Cultural motifs might include apple picking, pressing cider, making apple pies a Thanksgiving, and bringing an apple for the teacher at the start of the school year.

cut apple slices
the star
in all of us

Gillen Cox, Haikuniverse, March 27th, 2022

in the old orchard
sad apple trees
concede their mortality

Phil Huffy, Haikuniverse, April 1st, 2022

apple blushed and ripe
I close my eyes with the taste
yes, Eve, yes

Ellen Rowland, Kingfisher #3

Kale is one of the last greens to be harvested in the year. One of the hardiest cruciferous vegetables, it grows late into the season, which makes it a fitting fall vegetable.

picking kale—
the darkened veins
in grandma’s hands

Jacob Salzer, Kingfisher #3


At first I was undecided about whether to consider sweet potatoes a fall kigo or a winter kigo. While they are harvested just when it’s starting to get cold, they’re stored in root cellars, and eaten during the coldest months. I see sweet potatoes as providing nourishment when the gardens and fields are fallow.

sweet potato
the peeling away
of intimacy

Joanna Ashwell, First Frost #1

Even without a seasonal word such as wind chill, like in Lenard D. Moore’s haiku below, the idea of rich, warm hot chocolate as an antidote to the cold makes it a winter kigo.

wind chill
the hot chocolate
still too hot

Lenard D. Moore, Kingfisher #3

Tthe gingerbread house, along with other variations of gingerbread, is a winter image, associated with Christmas. (I’m partial to the Kemp’s gingerbread men ice cream sandwiches . . . it’s definitely weird to be eating ice cream in winter, but they are also delicious.)

a gingerbread house in this economy

Aaron Barry, Kingfisher #3

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these first observations in the comments. Also, don’t forget to send me your haiku for the special themed bonus post at the end of May!

Exit mobile version