Initial Observations Part 3: Seasonal Modifiers

In my May 10th post, I noted that I have observed three broad categories of food words in haiku:

  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

In the May 10th post, I also wrote about the first category. In the May 24th post, I focused on the second category. Today, I’m wrapping up the series by discussing the third category.

As of this writing, I’ve collected 140 haiku and senryu related to food. Based on my initial collections, category #3 represents the smallest proportion of haiku I’ve collected thus far.


Ginger cookies on a metal rack
Ginger cookies fresh from the oven. One of my favorites!

So far, winter contains the highest proportion of foods that become seasonal through a modifying word. My hypothesis is that because in the northern hemisphere, winter is the holiday season, a time when we’re often making special foods (such as Christmas cookies) that otherwise might fit all year. A chocolate chip or peanut butter cookie might show up in spring or fall (and even summer if you’re willing to turn on the oven). Christmas cookies, on the other hand, tend to be more elaborate, and some people make half a dozen different kinds. And while they’re festive, when juxtaposed with the right image, they can create a sense of melancholy. In Robert Witmer’s haiku below, I get a sense of loneliness.

baking Christmas cookies
the black and white TV
snows all night

Robert Witmer, bottle rockets #46

Likewise, holidays have their own particular candy. Christmas has (among other things) candy canes. Homemade candy in the form of fudge, taffy, peanut brittle, or buckeyes is common as well. While Christa Pandey’s haiku uses the generic “holiday sweets,” I see this as a winter or Christmas poem. The second and third lines, referencing the old country, make me think of homemade confections passed down from generations. In my experience, homemade Christmas candy is a little more common than homemade Easter, Valentine’s Day, or Halloween candy.

holiday sweets
last reminders
of the old country

Christa Pandey, Failed Haiku #70


Spring holidays also have their own candy. The empty heart in the first line modifies chocolates in the second line. Chocolate could appear at any time of the year, but chocolates that come from a heart-shaped box connect to Valentine’s Day.

an empty heart
the chocolates
all gone

Line Monique Gauthier, bottle rockets #46

I admit that it was challenging for me to list a Valentine’s Day poem in spring. In the haiku calendar, Valentine’s Day falls in early spring. Certainly in Texas, where I’ve lived for 14 years, Valentine’s Day can feel like spring (Snowpocalypse 2021 aside). But in many other parts of the country (and the world!) Valentine’s Day still feels like deep winter Still, for the sake of tradition, I’m including it here.

Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on

Robert Witmer’s poem connects to spring because the word blue brings to mind a robin’s egg. In fact, when I put it into my saijiki database, I wasn’t entirely sure it could be considered a cooking poem; perhaps it was simply a haiku about a robin hatching. However, when I read it, I also couldn’t stop thinking about the fresh chicken eggs I used to get from a friend’s back yard. They were typically smaller than grocery store eggs, and also came in a range of colors, including blue and green. This could be a hatching poem, a cooking poem, or both.

a small blue egg

Robert Witmer,


Photo by Tembela Bohle on

In Haiku World, William J. Higginson lists beer as a summer kigo. I was surprised by that, and although upon thinking about it I don’t think he’s entirely wrong, I don’t entirely agree either. There are so many styles of beer, and some are more appropriate for certain seasons than others. For example, I wouldn’t drink a port or a stout in summer—they’re too heavy, and best saved for winter. Lagers, pilsners, and shandies are best for summer. Sue Foster points to the tradition of Oktoberfest, turning beer into an autumn kigo. While I understand Higginson’s rationale (an ice-cold lager is exceptionally delicious) after a day of yard work, my opinion is that beer is an all-year term, and it requires either modifiers or specific names to ground it in a season.

fierce Texas sun beats down
Texas thirst meets iced
Oktoberfest beer

Sue Foster, Lifting the Sky: Southwestern Haiku and Haiga, ed. Scott Wiggerman and Constance Campbell.


Photo by Zen Chung on

Adelaide B. Shaw’s poem is perhaps my favorite example I’ve collected for this post, in part because it made me learn something new. Apples are normally an autumn kigo. I’d never heard of a windfall apple, so I looked it up. I learned that windfall apples are fruits that appear early, dropping as early as June! I realized I’d come across windfall apples already in my life, I just didn’t realize it. At my partner’s family farm, one of the apple trees was producing abundant fruit last July; I picked a fresh green one to use in my Fourth of July coleslaw. The modifying word “windfall” places this poem squarely in the summer season.

windfall apples
in my pockets
enough for a pie

Adelaide B. Shaw, bottle rockets #46

If you have any thoughts about seasonal modifiers for food, please let me know in the comments. I appreciate hearing from you! Don’t forget that the Culinary Saijiki podcast launches on June 21st!

2 thoughts on “Initial Observations Part 3: Seasonal Modifiers

  1. Hi Allyson, I was doing some research on World Kigo Database this weekend about my upcoming post on the micro-season of “The Plums Turn Yellow” and I noticed that the stages of the plum were tied to different seasons. For example, plum blossom is linked to spring and pickled plums are connected to late summer. So maybe not seasonal modifiers exactly, but it is an interesting observation about seasonal connections and a food product. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Thank you for sharing that observation! I think that example fits with the ideas I’ve brought up in today’s post. As I collect more poems, I think it will be worth exploring the seasonal stages of produce in more detail!

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