THE OYA PEA ("OYA", "PRICKLEPEA")

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - DISEASES - USAGES - REPRODUCTION - MYTH/LORE

This useful pea is a member of the alth’sieu (legume) family. It is a relatively inexpensive foodsource, good for both sentient races and beasts, and is the source for a variety of flavourful products. However, it is sensitive to climate and can be vexing to grow. Oyas are also known as Oya Peas, Pricklepeas (in peasant or common Tharian), F’eyren (believed to derive from ‘Fay Eyren’, or ‘faery eggs’) and Oya Pearls.

Appearance. An individual Oya plant is a rather ugly thing, consisting of a finger-thick hollow stalk springing directly from the ground, only about knee-high to the average human. It has no leaves, nor flowers; instead, a number of short, thin limbs branch off, thrusting nakedly out on opposing sides of the stalk, and each bearing a little green pod. The pods grow into fat crescents which curve and wrinkle, bulging with the peas inside – usually only about three thumb-widths long, or ‘no bigger than a woman’s curled little finger’, as the farmers of the Shyar Plain say. The pods develop a characteristic prickly ‘fur’ coat as they mature, which is unpleasant to the average huma's skin. Some sensitive folk even develop a rash while harvesting Oya and must wear heavy leather gloves. However, cattle, pigs, and other domestic animals fed on Oya pods appear to have no ill effects whatsoever.

There are usually three to five small, spherical, wrinkled peas to each pod; when the fuzzy brown husk is cracked open, the interior is a beautiful, polished golden shell, almost reflectively smooth and curved to nestle its seeds as lovingly as any jewel box. A sun-lit threshing floor after Oyas have been harvested is a-sparkle with bits of this crushed husk, glinting against the trodden earth.
Return to the top

Territory. The Oya Pea prefers a bitter soil to a sweet one, a windy climate to a damp, and a cool area to a warm. Thus it grows best above the Ancythrian Sea in central Sarvonia, and is rarely found below.

The major cultivated Oya pea fields are in Northern Santharia:

The plant grows wild in parts of the Allsiscaey Mountains, the foothills of the Troll Mountains, and the edges of the Warnakas. It has been found as far south as the Steppe of Kruswick.

Care must be taken when cultivating Oyas that the ground is not too moist – it is better to incur a lower-yield in any one season than to encourage stem rot. Crowding too many plants into a too small field can also cause stem rot, as wind needs to circulate freely around each plant to keep drying the dew and rain.
Return to the top

Diseases. ‘Maldwhite’ is a disease peculiar to Oya peas and their Alth’sieu cousins such as the Onn’miev and the Onn’garg; small, moist white circles appear all over the leaves and pods of the affected plants, which eat through into the pea itself and render it unfit for consumption by man or beast. A mildewy reek accompanies the manifestation of Maldwhite in Oya fields, often before the first few circles begin to show clearly. If Grothar blesses the farmer with dry, sunny weather for the next few days, the field may yet be saved for drying – alternatively, some Oya growers choose to harvest early and sell the untainted green pods as a fresh vegetable which they call ‘Oyame’ (see Usages, below).

If the mildew goes unnoticed, or - as has happened with insufficiently cautious buyers - the stalks are deliberately sold in bulk as cattle feed and the 'malded' pods concealed within the bundles, adverse effects can result from eating the peas. Even cooking the Oya pods does not seem to destroy the taint.

Humans who consume them, oblivious to the musty smell, will experience a number of unpleasant symptoms: "... painful stomach cramps, loose bowels or even a purging flux, and, if not given an emetic in the more serious cases, may lose water and flesh to the point of severe dehydration and emaciation...." (from The Village Huswife's Almanack, 'Common Ills Afflicting the Farmer', 1664)

Animals such as cattle, pigs, and goats, will suffer much the same reaction, usually more severe as they ingest leaves, pods, and peas together in most cases. Again, if not given a 'drench' of some fluid which will make them disgorge the malded substance, their life is often at risk. Stem rot, while unpleasant itself, does not carry the same chance of reaction; the Oya farmer's prime enemy is Maldwhite - beware it!
Return to the top

Usages. The Oya is a useful and multi-purpose vegetable which cannot only be eaten fresh, dried, and roasted, but processed still further to create a wide range of tastes and textures from the one simple plant. One has merely to look at the examples below!

Reproduction. The cultivated plant is grown from the best of the dried peas of the previous season’s crop, usually the summer’s harvest. The individual peas are ‘dibbled’ into the soil about the depth of a man’s thumb, and about the same distance apart. Early spring is the best time for planting, though a new crop may be put in during the summer as well. They will sprout quickly and produce one straight stalk which then buds the small green pods off directly on short, opposing ‘limbs’. The pods are quite curved, almost crescent-shaped, and become fatter as they grow. They begin to develop their fuzzy, prickly coat at about two months into their maturity. Depending upon the usage, the pods can be harvested green (before the prickly coat appears), or left to dry on the stalk until they are a rich yellow-brown colour and rattle in their shell.

A sheaf or so are invariably left to dry no matter what, as those peas will be gathered before frost and stored for the next planting time. By careful selection and replanting, some farmers have managed to consistently grow pods with four or five large peas, increasing their total yield by almost a quarter, though this is by no means a wide-spread practice as yet.

The ‘Pricklepea’ produces pods through the first three seasons, and can thus be harvested summer, fall, and early winter. If wanted dry, they are left in the field as long as possible, then scythed like grain and threshed.
Return to the top

Myth/Lore. The name “F’eyren” is given its provenance in one of Master Tribell’s shorter Legends, from which we quote one of the concluding sentences here: “The eyren of the fay are found on cool and stony lands, you know… so, children, venture not to pick the prickly F’eyren pea in faery circles, lest you find that you have strayed from familiar fields…”

There are also sayings from various parts of Santharia which basically all contrast the unappealing appearance of the Oya Pea with its beneficial, golden interior. For example:

The Helcrani of Milkengrad say, “Don’t mind him, he’s a Pricklepea…” – much as the merchants of New-Santhala refer to a coarse-spoken but kindhearted person as a ‘diamond in the rough’.

Children in Weyring sing, “Oya, oya, mickles, meez / Cat’s a-corner, catchin’ peas! / Catch as catchan, catcha girl / pretty as a n’Oya Pearl!”

The folk of Veltin say cynically, “An ugly woman may be an Oya Pea… but then again, she may be only an ugly woman…”  
Return to the top

Information provided by Bard Judith View Profile