THE KOEKEN FUNGUS ("PANCAKE", GRIINEB)

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - USAGES - REPRODUCTION - MYTH/LORE

Koeken, or "Pancakes" as they are colloquially known in peasant Tharian ("Griineb" in Thergerim), are a type of edible, tree-growing shelf fungus commonly found in swamps and other dank areas throughout Sarvonia. Although having little taste of their own, they are nutritious enough and will help to fill out a wayside meal.

The Koeken Fungus
View picture in full size Image description. The Koeken Fungus, also commonly referred to as "Pancake" Mushroom. Picture drawn by Eshóh K'ryvvlen.

Appearance. Koeken invariably grow on the sides of large swamp trees in thick clusters. They are oval in shape, and on average larger and thicker than a man’s flattened hand. Attached to the bark of the tree on one side, they thrust outwards on the horizontal, overlapping and rounding like the scales of an adlemir cone.

In natural light they can be seen to be a light brown shade with murky green overtones. The pock-marked top is darker than the underside, which is pitted in texture and ranges from a yellowish ivory to a green-tinged tan. They grow in fits and starts, depending upon the amount of rain and light they receive, marking their growth periods in concentric darker rings, rather like the trees upon which they thrive. Young Koeken with only three or four rings will not be as pleasant in texture as their seven or eight-ringed elders, since when small they are somewhat tough and rubbery. As they grow they expand and become spongy and less chewy. The faint dimpling on the top face of the "pancake" also expands and deepens into pockings and "bubbles" that increase the fungus’s resemblance to the fried sweet for which it is named.
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Territory. The Koeken can grow almost anywhere in terms of climate, save for the dry heat of the Ráhaz-Dáth and the permanently snowy regions of Northern Sarvonia. Apart from that, it flourishes wherever it can get some shade and adequate moisture. Though there is a common belief that they will only grow on the north-east side of their host tree, rangers tell us that is in error, and the fungus grows quite happily in any direction – in some places completely ringing the tree to such an extent that it kills its host.

Koeken grows in almost all of the major marshes and swamps of Sarvonia: Aldrige Swamp in the Kanapans, the Seanian Swamp in the Enthronian province of Santharia, the Helmondshire Silvermarshes, the Oka’Seri, and up to the Shadowmarshes. The older elven forests such as the Goltherlon are also decorated liberally with Koeken in their darker areas.

Koeken, or something that closely resembles them, are found in Nybelmar under similar growing conditions, and are worthy of note because they reach a much larger size than the Sarvonian species. One dried specimen that reached us as a curiosity was literally a fore wide by two fores long, nine times the size of the average Sarvonian Pancake.  
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Usages. These oval, spongy fungi are known to most races on Caelereth as a sustaining wild food. They form a part of the swamp-dwelling mullogs’ diet, are popular with the dwarves of Sarvonia (as they can also be grown underground), and have added bulk if not flavour to many a human traveller’s impromptu meals.

Brownies harvest the Koeken one at a time, soak it in a herbal mixture and then bake it rather like a huge loaf of bread. The result is quite tasty even to man’s plate, but the Brownies will not reveal their secret herbs – wise, as what they can gather in quantities sufficient to stockpile for a year would probably be consumed in one evening at a human banquet!

The Thergerim, who call the fungus “Griineb” or “Griineberons”, enjoy roasting them on sticks directly over the hearthcoals until brown, then dipping the resulting crispy wafer into “JhelHee”, a dragonishly-hotly spiced spread made with lythe’bel fruit, weeproot, and kragghi sap. See Dame Sausade’s Cookbook for a version of JhelHee adapted for human tastes!

Koeken can be dried for storage and then reconstituted in water or broth. They bulk up soups and stews, and their bland taste blends well with almost any dish. They can even be chopped finely and added to puddings, cakes, or other sweets where quantities are less than desired, and as such are considered a convenient ‘stretcher’ to be kept on hand by the provident housewife.

Deer and other herbivores will browse on Koeken if nothing green is available, but this must be a rare occurrence due to the fungus’s growing territory. It seems to go unmolested by most other animals, though sometimes one can note beak marks in it, suggesting that corbies and other birds occasionally scavenge meals of "Pancakes" when carrion is not to be found.
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Reproduction. The Koeken reproduces in the simplest possible way, like many other fungi. It releases a fine, dusty spore-powder from its pitted underside; however, unlike its brethren, it does this several times throughout the year. Also, any chunk of the fungus, taken at a mature stage and placed in a suitable environment (tucked into a fold of treebark, for example) will send out tiny tendrils from one side, fasten itself on, and proceed to develop into a full-size, half-round mature Pancake. Doubtless this was part of its creators’ design (see Myths, Lore and Origins) so that it could establish itself and become prevalent more quickly. 
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Myth/Lore and Origins. Unlike many of the plants in our Compendium for which we can record nothing more than ancient stories or grannies’ babetales, the Koeken actually has a verified origin. It was created deliberately as a readily-accessible foodplant by the elven mages of the now-extinct Goltherrhim tribe. By careful cross-breeding combined with their sensitive plant-magic, they created a sturdy, versatile, simple growth that would flourish across most of the continent and provide a food source to benefit the sentient races. Humans and Thergerim in particular do indeed owe these long-ago herbmages a debt of thanks; though they are gone, their gift remains.
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