THE KHMEEN PLANT ("MAIDEN'S BREATH")

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - USAGES - REPRODUCTION - MYTH/LORE

The Khmeen is a common plant with year-long or two-years-long reproduction cycle and which prefers temperate or subtropical dry summer climates. - Khmeen can be found everywhere where winters are not too severe and soil too watery. Khmeen seeds are the main part of the plant used (as spicery as well as for medical use), although the entire plant is edible. Khmeen seeds can be found almost in every kitchen and to bake darker bread (that from wholemeal flour) or cook a stew without it is nearly unimaginable.

Khmeen plants with year-long reproduction cycle are less common and their seeds contain significantly greater amount of oils. Also their blossoms are bigger and smell pleasantly. That could be the reason, why they are also called "Maiden's Breath".

Plants with two-years-long cycle are more common and ordinary on sight. Another name for this variety is Black Khmeen (due to the color of the seeds).


Appearance. In the seedling year, Black Khmeen plants resemble carrots, growing about 20 nailsbreadths tall, with finely divided leaves and a long taproot. By the second year, 60 to 90 nailsbreadths (2-3 fores) stalks develop, topped by umbels with pink or white flowers. These produce the seed, which is used as a spice. Plants that produce flowers and seed will die. Only plants that have not yet flowered will produce seed the following year.

The floret is composed of five drop- or heart-shaped petals and looks very similar to kids' flower drawings. Maiden's Breath blossoms are about 1 nailsbreadth wide, while Black Khmeens' ones are only 2 grains wide.

Maiden's Breath plants are generally bigger - about 2.5-3.5 fores and blossom with light pink or blue blossoms with lovely smell.

The crescent-shaped seeds are about 1 grain long, curved and tapered at each end and have 5 pale ridges. Black Khmeen's seeds are nearly black whereas the finest seeds of Maiden's Breath have light brown color in the valley between each ridge.
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Territory. Khmeen is adapted to temperate or subtropical dry summer climates. It will grow on a wide range of soil textures, but prefers dryer soils. Khmeen's tolerance to salinity is relatively low, it does not respond well to irrigation though it can stand some light flooding. Under watery conditions, it will not die, but seed crop will be severely reduced and/or devalued.

Typical habitat of Khmeen is in the southern Elverground - windswept plain with little rainfall. Local halflings grow Khmeen famous for its most delicate flavour and its finest oil. Hobbits use Khmeen in many meals since it is good with almost anything - from pastry, to vegetable and meat.

Other places where Khmeen is common are the Narfost Plain, the northern end of Nybelmar at the Bay of Erkandir and other.
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Usages. Seeds of Black Khmeen are used whole or ground as a spice and Maiden's Breath seeds are used to produce Khmeen oil. Khmeen oil is extracted from the seed by steam distillation. Khmeen seeds are the main part of the plant used, although the entire plant is edible. The roots can be cooked like carroots or tuberroots, and the young leaves can be used in salads or as a seasoning.

Slightly rough gingery flavored seeds give darker bread its characteristic taste but are also good in soups, cheeses and salad dressings. Khmeen seeds are used in various pastries, with roasted meat (Khmeen seeds are great with meat for easing its digestion) and even in liqueurs.

The seeds and their oils are used as herbal remedies for treating disorders such as a bad back, eye infection and toothache. Khmeen also has a beneficial effect on good digestion and is used at bad-breath treatment and as a cure on cough and other respiratory disorders.

The oil is also used as a fragrance component in cosmetic preparations including soaps, creams, lotions and perfumes.
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Reproduction. Maiden's Breath variety requires much longer growing season than Black Khmeen, but on the other hand its seeds are bigger as well as the plant itself. Black Khmeen variety requires a second growing season to produce seed. Although the plant is considered a biennial, it often produces seed in the third year.

In the seedling year, Black Khmeen plants remain vegetative and in the second year, plants with small roots (less than 7 grains in diameter) usually do not produce seed. They remain vegetative through the growing season and produce seed the following year. Khmeen plants with larger roots (greater than 7 grains in diameter) at the start of the growing season will usually flower and produce seed. Plants that produce flowers and seed will die. Only plants that have not yet flowered will endure winter and produce seed the following year.

Khmeen is quick to germinate (two to three days), it flowers from the Month of the Rising Sun to the Month of the Burning Heavens. Presence of malises significantly increases Khmeen's seed crop.
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Myth/Lore. It is believed that Khmeen could be one of the oldest spices - as early as the times of the empire of F'v'cl'r candied Khmeen seeds were served together with fruit and in soups and sauces.
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