The Kell herb is an aromatic flowering plant, not quite leafy enough to be called a shrub, with tall beautiful flowers. It grows mainly in the mid-southern regions of Santharia, though it has spread to some more northern regions where the climate is similar.
Image description. The aromatic flowering Kell Herb with its tall and beautiful flowers. Pic by Jeshannon.
Appearance. The Kell
herb begins life as a seed about a
nailsbreadth long. The seed
is dark yellow and smooth when it is newly formed, but as it grows mature it
lightens in color and becomes wrinkled. When planted in moist, cool soil in the
early spring, the seed will grow. First, the roots grow; they are also pale
yellow, and are very thin and fine. A shoot appears soon afterward. In the
beginning, it is pale green and fragile, but as it grows it strengthens and
deepens in color. Eventually, they grow tough and fibrous. Leaves grow soon
after the shoot appears. In shape, they are similar to a
sword blade, long and very thin. In their
maturity, they can grow to be about a ped. They are curiously coloured,
dark and light green marbled together. They grow from the base of the plant,
leaving the stalk bare, and about two and a half fores long, until the flowers
grow. The stem and the leaves are highly aromatic, releasing a heady sweet scent
similar to that of the rik’tyan
but stronger. They release this scent all of their lives.
After the Kell Herb has been growing for four to five months, tiny blue buds begin to form all up and down the stalk. There are always an odd number of buds on a stalk, usually thirteen or fifteen. Over the next month, the buds swell. They also change colour; the colour they turn determines what colour the flowers inside will be when they bloom. They either darken until they are deep sapphire blue, or they lighten until they are barely blue at all, just green as the stalk. When the buds reach about two nailsbreadths across, they stop growing and sun themselves for about three days, and then are finally ready to bloom.
The deep blue buds blossom into purple flowers, and the green buds blossom into pink ones. Sometimes, the buds do not darken or lighten as much as usual, and the flowers that grow are a sort of in-between colour, a purplish-pink. The blooms are about half a palmspan across. The petals are very thin and feathery. There are about fifteen of them attached to each flower, and they are loosely attached to the head of the flower and hang down like a bell. They are known as “Kellflowers”. They are not highly aromatic, though the scent of the stem and leaves sometimes fools people into believing that they do have a strong scent. The blooms are hardy and stay on the plant for about three weeks before the petals shrivel, turn brown, and fall off the plant.
After the petals fall off, the berries (the part of the flower the petals were attached to before they fell), which were either deep blue or green depending on what colour the buds had been before the flowers bloomed, turn a uniform deep blue. Right after the petals fall, the berries are barely half a nailsbreadth across, but in the following two weeks they swell to be almost two nailsbreadths across. By this time, it is usually mid autumn. If there are birds around to eat the berries, the seeds are deposited wherever the birds fly. If the birds aren’t around or don’t eat the berries, they will stay ripe for less than a week before starting to dry out. This process is fast, and before five days are past the berries will have lost almost all colour and will have split to show the seeds inside. They are about a nailsbreadth long and dark yellow and smooth, and after sunning themselves for a week or so, they lighten in colour and wrinkle and are then ready for planting.
Territory. The Kell Herb grows all over southern Santharia, but it tends to cluster most thickly in the provinces of Manthria and Sanguia, generally along the banks of rivers like the Thaehelvil. It is also known to grow along the Ravenwing Falls and the river that feeds it. The Kell needs a moist environment to grow, and while it will grow in other areas, river valleys are its favoured environment.
Usages. Various parts of the plant can be used in different ways. Here's a short overview, split up at the single components:
When the seeds are pale and smooth, before they are fully mature, they can be harvested. Dried and ground, they make an effective seasoning for sweet dishes, or they can be used whole and fresh as a flavouring in teas or on desserts. The seed must be harvested before mature, however, or it loses all its flavour.
The stem is tough and fibrous, so it is sometimes dried and used in braiding or weaving to make a tough twine or cloth. It should be harvested before the buds form for best results, but this must be done before the flowers die or it will separate into fibers when it is dried and twisted. Before being woven, it has to be dried until it is completely brown, and then twisted, and finally it can be woven or braided. If the stems are not completely brown and dried when they are braided, they sometimes retain some of their aroma and are used in wardrobes and pillows as sachets.
Some papermakers choose to use the Kell stems as an ingredient in their papers, and while much of the scent is brewed out of them they retain some of the sweetness, and so are very popular as a medium for passionate letters between lovers. The paper is tough and fibrous, but it is a beautiful pale blue color.
The leaves can be used much the same way as the stem, though the cloth and twine made from them are not as tough as when made from the stem. The paper made from the leaves is more widely sought after than that of the stem, because the paper isn’t as rough on the hands, but the colour is a less appealing pale green. If the leaves are harvested before they are completely mature, when they are still soft and tender, they make a filling though bitter stew, or can be brewed into tea. However, because of the bitter taste, they are rarely used for this purpose.
The buds, if harvested before the colour changes, are tender and sweet, and can be used dried and ground up as a mild sweetener, or can be eaten fresh in a salad. If they are harvested after they change colour, though, the taste is so intense as to be barely edible for most people. The powder produced when they are dried and ground has a sweet, creamy flavour, and it is widely referred to as “Kellian”. This Kellian can be added to the milk of the milch goat and whipped to make a sweet, frothy drink, also known as Kellian. While this drink has been abandoned in many areas for newer inventions, it is still popular in some of the older areas of Sarvonia.
The flowers are possibly the most useful part of the plant. First, they are very beautiful, particularly in large bouquets, and are often used to decorate tables or hearths. Second, the petals can be used like the young buds, and can be dried and ground into Kellian. The Kellian drink made from the petals is thicker than that made from the buds. Third, and most importantly, the petals can be brewed into a tea. This tea is very revitalizing and is often drank when one is forced to work all night or to forsake sleep for some reason. It is sweet and mild, but the effects are large. The petals from one flower can brew enough tea to keep three men awake all night. Drying the petals makes them lose this effect, so using them as a sweetener doesn’t cause this.
The berries, right after the petals fall, are sour and most people choose not to eat them at that time. After about two weeks, they ripen and grow. At this time, they remain deep blue on the outside, but are a shocking shade of red on the inside. They are very sweet, and the seeds inside them are also sweet and edible. They make excellent pies, called Kellberry pies, and can be used in almost any sweet dish. They also make excellent jam or preserves. However, if they aren’t harvested in the scant five days they are ripe, they will begin to brown and split. At this time, they are still edible, but they taste like a mouthful of dust.
The Kell Herb reproduces using a seed. After the flowers bloom, they release
tiny pollen particles, which ride the wind
until it is deposited, hopefully on another Kellflower. Kellflowers can also be
pollinated by flowers of other species. When the flower is pollinated, a seed
begins to form inside what will be the berry once the petals fall off. Whether
the flower is pollinated or not, a berry will form, but if the flower isn’t
pollinated there will be no seed inside the berry. Because the flowers are
roughly bell-shaped and it is difficult for the pollen to blow into them, seeds
are rarer than in most plants, and so are prized.
Myth/Lore. Nothing is known about the origins of the plant. The name came from the region around the Ravenwing Falls. The plant was named after a young man named Kell who perpetually had huge amounts of energy; the effects of the plant were seen to be similar to his normal state, so the people who knew him laughingly named it the Kell Herb, and thus the name spread.
Information provided by Erynn Fenteriel