THE NEEPS VEGETABLES:
FURNEEPS, SWEETNEEPS, PA'S NEEPS, REDNEEPS

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - USAGES - REPRODUCTION - MYTH/LORE

Neeps are a family of edible, bulbous, root vegetables grown widely throughout the whole of Caelereth, but originating from Northern Sarvonia, where they still grow better than anywhere else. Although most children will refuse to eat Neeps (for reasons best known to themselves), it is worthwhile persevering with one's efforts, as the benefits to their health are manifold. Mainly used as ingredients in hot, filling dishes, each variety also has a number of less culinary uses. Each variety, excepting the Sweetneep (which is a cultivated form only), has a smaller, wild cousin, but these are considered to be weeds, and are wholly unsuitable for the pot.

Appearance. Each variety of Neep is sufficiently different in appearance that it is more efficacious to present them as individual entries.

Territory. The wild varieties of Neep originated in Northern Sarvonia, where they still grow today in such large numbers that they are considered as weeds. Research has shown that they have been cultivated for many thousands of years, being amongst the first food plants to be regularly used by the ancient tribes of Sarvonia.Now cultivated widely throughout the whole of Sarvonia, except in the hottest or driest regions, their territory could indeed be said to be 'widespread'.


The Sweetneep, being the hardiest of the family, is an important part of the diet of the more northerly tribes of Northern Sarvonia, such as the Kaaer'dar'shin and the Remusians. North of the Themed'lon Forest, the short growing season and hostile climate mean that even the Sweetneep is unable to survive, and people living in these regions have to rely on trade for their Neeps.

The Furneep and Pa's Neep do not grow well in the northern regions, being more suited to the lands stretching from Naurooth in the East, to the Peninsula of Glandor in the West. They will, however, grow sufficiently well further South if they can be shaded from the sun for a few hours around mid-day, and plenty of cool rainwater or fresh river water can be provided for them. In the warmer southern areas of the North, the Redneep grows so well that farmers have to do no more than scatter the seed in spring, and gather the harvest in the autumn. They seem to thrive on being neglected, and will always reward the grower with a goodly crop.

In Southern Sarvonia, the growing of the Sweetneep is almost impossible, except in rare instances at high altitudes. The Furneep and Pa's Neep can be grown successfully in many areas, except where the heat is constant. The Redneep grows very well in all regions, as long as fresh, cool water can be provided each day.
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Usages. Probably due to the length of time man has been growing Neeps, a wide variety of uses have been found for these versatile vegetables. Some of the uses listed here are shared by all varieties, whilst some are specific to one type or other.

By far the most common use for the Neeps is as a filling, nourishing foodstuff. Cooking is usually done by peeling, boiling in water, and then mashing the soft root, although some people cut them into chunks and add them to stews and broths. The Neeproot can be peeled and eaten raw, and unlike the other types of Neep, no ill effects such as stomach cramps will be felt.

The Furneep and Sweetneep are especially tasty when cooked and mashed together with carroots, the flavours helping to enhance each other. This makes a tasty treat when served with roasted bear and gravy, a dish popular in Northern Sarvonia.

The Pa's Neep is perhaps the most versatile of the Neeps for the cook, and each region seems to have its own special way of preparing them for the table: Along with the other Neeps, it can be added to stews, broths, or braises. It is excellent when boiled and mashed, served alone or with carroots, and topped with a chunk of butter. If a child is loathe to eat vegetables, one might peel and thinly slice the root from top to bottom, roast and baste with butter until golden brown, then serve with meat and gravy. Another tasty snack is Crispy Pa's Neeps. Peel and thinly slice the root across its length. Drop these circles of Neep into hot oil and fry until golden and crispy. Sprinkle with a little salt or honey, and serve hot. Delicious! Pa's Neeps can even be combined with sugar and spices in a pastry crust and used as a sweet pie, which in poorer households is often used for birthday celebrations.

For centuries, brewers have made a cheap ale from the Neeps, but more recently they have attracted the attentions of the wine-makers of Southern Sarvonia. With delicate blending and the addition of a few secret ingredients (mainly herbs), both white and red wines are now being produced which are said to rival even those made from the ar'o'bejon berries of the vine-fields of Masterbard Judith herself.

The leaves of all varieties can be eaten raw or boiled and chopped and eaten alone or added to stews and soups. Children especially like the leaves of the Sweetneep coated in sugar and butter, then quickly fried in hot oil.

Due to their bright red stems, the leaves of the Redneep make a colourful addition to any salad, and their smoky, peppery taste means no other seasoning is required.

The Remusians of the North-Eastern Icelands use the leaf of the Sweetneep in a popular traveler's snack called "Saltneep Pie". A healthy sized piece of salted fish is wrapped around with a whole leaf to make a small parcel. This is then fried in melted fat and left to cool. The resulting 'pie' will stay fresh for up to a week, and provides the traveler with a nutritious meal which doesn't take up any room in his pack.

Another popular snack, traditionally enjoyed by farmers or field-workers, is the "Pasty". Any leftover scraps of meat and vegetables, especially Neeps, are wrapped inside a thick pastry case which is then sealed and flattened into a rough half-circle shape. Baked until golden brown, the pasty will stay warm for hours (a great pleasure for the hands on cold mornings), or can even be eaten cold.

As well as being a valuable plant for the cook, likewise herbmothers and apothecaries have found many uses for the various parts of the Neep plants.

The seeds of the Pa's Neep contain an oil which, when ingested in prescribed dosages, can aid in the correction of stomach and bowel disorders, sleeplessness, and stiffness of the joints. A strong decoction of the root assists in the removal of obstructions of the bowel, and has proved useful in the treatment of butter-skin sickness and gravel of the kidneys.

Considering the robust good-health enjoyed by folk who eat Neeps as a large part of their diet, it is not beyond reason to suppose that the roots contain goodly amounts of substances valuable to the body's well-being. This seems to be particularly evident in the Furneep.

After boiling Neeps, the water is usually allowed to cool and then given to small children as a drink. Small babies will become more robust, less prone to the night-terrors, and may even suffer less from tooth-growing pains. Older children who take Furneep water regularly will have fewer health problems such as Winter colds and melancholy.

The Redneep has all the health-giving properties of the other Neeps, to a greater or lesser degree, but has a couple of medicinal uses unique to itself.

If eaten regularly, not only will your general health be much improved, but the substance which gives the root its rich purple colouration is said to help the blood move more vigourously about the body, thus keeping each part of the body healthier and stronger, even into old age.

This same substance is also thought to help the body expel impurities and so help the stomach and bowels to function with greater ease.

Another use for the Redneep has begun to gain in popularity of late. Women of the less affluent regions who cannot afford the expensive make-up seen on the faces of well-to-do women have taken to using the juice squeezed from the root as a cheap alternative. By adding varying amounts of water to the juice, many shades of lip-colour can be created. A fingertip dipped into the dye and brushed gently acros the lips gives them a fuller, more attractive appearance. If truphull oil is used instead of water, the colour is easier to apply, and tends to last longer before needing to be re-done.

A very pale pink dye can be used to bring a blush to the cheeks, but this must be used sparingly or the wearer risks appearing like a character from a Black Butterfly pantomime!

Some women have experimented with using Redneep juice as a hair dye, but results seem to be dubious at best, as the hair tends to stick together into clumps as the dye dries out.

One final use for the Redneep is as a dye. When crushed and pulped, the root will release a deep purple juice, so deep, in fact, that it appears almost nor'sidian. Using varying amounts of water to dilute this juice, dyes of almost every shade of red can be made, from darkest purple to the softest pink. The colours obtained from this dye are bright, do not fade easily, and will withstand washing for longer than most other dyes. After soaking the cloth in the dye, washing it in a tub of clean, cold salt-water will ensure that the colour is set in the cloth.

Along with the wild varieties of Neeps, any larger cultivated roots (which tend to be too bitter tasting to be of use in the kitchen), make excellent winter food for cattle. Likewise any damaged or over-ripe roots can be saved and fed to cows, pigs or sheep when other fodder is scarce.

Finally, presented here for your delectation are receipts collected from the various regions of Sarvonia:

Boar's Head with Celeste Kail

You will need: Half a Boars-head, a large handful of toasted wheat grain, salt to taste, two handfuls of celeste kail greens, three flaggons of water.

Prepare a broth of the boars-head, and boil it till oil floats on the top of the liquor. Boil the greens, shred, and drop into the broth. Place the wheat grain, with a little salt, into a large bowl, and mix with it quickly a half-flaggon of the fat broth (it should not be allowed to run into a doughy mass, but should instead form knots). Stir this into the whole, give one boil, and serve very hot.

Boiled Neep-Greens

To each half-pail of water allow one large spoonful of salt.

Wash well the greens, cut away any wormeaten pieces and tie it into small bunches. Drop these bunches into boiling water, salted in the above proportion, and set to boil quickly until tender. Remove the bunches, drain and untie. Serve with plain melted butter or aise sauce, a little of which may be poured over the greens. Neep-greens may also be part-boiled and stewed in good brown gravy.

Pa's Neep Pie

You will need 8 to 10 Pa's Neeps, 1 onyon, 5 spoons of butter or aise, the peel of 2 bittersweet fruits, a small spoon of bitternut, a finger-pinch of pepper, a flaggon of sweet wine.

Prepare 2 pie-crusts and set to bake over a very hot flame. Peel the Pa's Neeps, cut into large dice and remove any woody core. Set in a large pot of boiling water and cook until tender to a forks-prod. Drain and set aside.
Peel and quarter the onyon and slice very thin. Place slices into a hot pan with 2 spoons of butter or aise until soft.
Make thin slices of the bittersweet peel.
Gather the crusts from the heat, place the Pa's Neeps in the bottom crust. Cover with onyons and bittersweet peel. Sprinkle with bitternut and pepper, and spread with remaining butter or aise. Cover this with the top crust, cutting a small hole in its center. Return the whole to the flame until the crust begins to brown, pour the wine into the hole, then wait until the mixture begins to bubble through the hole. Can be served hot or cold.
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Reproduction. Cross-pollination by insects is the usual method of reproduction for all varieties of Neep. The small flowers produce large amounts of pollen throughout the summer months, and sometimes the weight of malises and butterflies atop each flower stalk is enough to bend it over, almost touching the soil.

In the frozen lands of the far North, however, this method is almost useless, as very few insects can survive the bitter temperatures of these regions. The Neeps must, therefore, rely on the wind to spread their pollen. Most farmers in these areas cannot afford to put their trust in nature at these times, and will pick flowers from each plant and rub them across the flowers of the neighbouring plants, just to ensure that pollination takes place.

In late Sleeping Dreameress and early Fallen Leaf, the flowers will have been replaced by bulging seed-heads. If left unpicked, the seeds will remain in place over winter, before falling in early Molten Ice. This is a dangerous practice, however, as the seeds are full of goodness, and birds or small mammals such as mice or rats will quickly gobble them up as food becomes scarce during the freezing winter months. Farmers will usually gather the seeds early, and store them in a cool, dry area where they will continue to ripen. It appears that far from damaging the seeds as it does with most plants, the severe frosts of the northern regions actually help the Neep seeds to germinate successfully.
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Myth/Lore. It is a common belief throughout the tribes of Northern Sarvonia that the smell of raw Neeps will frighten off any evil spirits who try to enter their homes or meddle with their crops. When the larger Neeps have ripened, the very largest ones are selected and taken into the home where the children will cut off the tops, hollow out the flesh inside (which is used in the kitchen; waste not, want not) with a spoon, and then carve faces of animals through the remaining flesh.

The parents will then place small stubs of candle inside each Neep, and hang them outside the doors and windows to serve as a warning to the spirits. On certain nights of the year, when the spirits are said to be particularly active, the children will go around the local farmers fields with their lamps held high on sticks, scaring away any evil spirits trying to ruin the harvest. After a couple of turns around each field, the farmer's wife will hand out sweet Pa's Neep crisps which she has made fresh that day, as a thank-you to the children.

The name Pa's Neep is thought to originate from the children of the first people to grow it as a food crop. Disliking the bitter taste of the ancient, wild varieties, they refused to eat them. In an effort to convince them of the benefits of the Neeps, their fathers would eat vast amounts whilst trying to prise a spoonful between firmly shut lips. Gradually, the childrens response to their mother's pleas to eat the root became "I can't eat those, Mother. Them's Pa's Neeps, them is."
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 Date of last edit 21st Rising Sun 1668 a.S.

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