THE RED GRAIN ("MARGERT STALK", "BEERLEY", "BARLAY")

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - USAGES - REPRODUCTION - MYTH/LORE

Red Grain (Thergerim, “Margert Stalk”) is a long, slender plant that is native to the cold plains of Northern Sarvonia. It stands about the height of man’s waist, and is very useful as a food product. The seeds of this plant are ground up into flour, and used in baking by peoples all over the north. It also is used as a source of fermentation for beer and as an ingredient in other malt beverages by several tribes. A bright shade of red, this plant blooms with flowers every spring in colours of orange, white, and yellow. Its seeds, which are referred to as "Beerlay", are an off-white colour.

Strangely enough, this plant has managed to find its way into Southern Sarvonia by trade, and grows there also. However, it appears that the change in climate results in a dramatic change in the appearance of the plant. There it grows nearly three times as high, and is a very dark shade of purple. It sports red, pink, and green flowers while growing in Southern Sarvonia, and the seeds it produces are an orange colour. It has been found that the seeds grown in Southern Sarvonia are incredibly bitter, and unusable for flour, though they are still usable as a fermentation source. In Southern Sarvonia, the plant is more commonly called by the name of its seed, Beerlay.

Appearance. There are two varieties of Red Grain, a northern one and a southern one:

Territory. Red Grain grows on practically any relatively flat area on the entire continent of Sarvonia. This plant (due to its dual nature), can survive in many different climates, and so the only limitation to its growth is its need for flat terrain. A particularly heavy concentration of this plant can be found on the Heaths of Wilderon. The reason for its spread across the continent is the fact that it has been used in trade very much through the ages, and nowadays it is rarely seen growing in the wild. The vast majority of this plant is grown by farmers. Return to the top

Usages. The northern variety of Red Grain can be ground into a rusty orange colored flour, which is used by the Kuglimz men, Kanapan Men, northern dwarves, and Evathonrhim for their baking needs. This flour is very good for cakes and pastries, since it produces a rich flavor. However, this flavour is too rich for bread, and the products produced from this plant do not keep fresh for more than a few days, which means it is not practical for rations. The Kanapan women are especially renowned for their skill in using this flour for a variety of excellent sweets. The Susilgerim dwarves, who conduct regular trade with the Kanapans, have copied this skill in some degree with their Moonlight Pie (made with the fruit of the cavernfire bush). The Kuglim mix the flour with dried lythien moss, which keeps the good flavor of the flour but also acts as a preservative, making it usable for more practical needs. The Kaaer'dár'shín half-orcs also use this grain for baking, though they use a small amount of the extract of the althz'onn ("bean plant") to help preserve it. The breads they bake are usually eaten with many of their meals, as a balance to their largely carnivorous diet.

The orcs find the baked goods made with this flour to be absolutely vile, and burn the plant whenever they can. A common method of torture used by humans and dwarves upon their orcish prisoners is to forcefully feed them bread baked with this flour. Due to the sharp teeth and claws of most orcs, this is accomplished through the use of a wooden pole.

Another important usage of Red Grain is as a fermentation source for many of the beers and ales produced in Sarvonia. In the north, the Beerlay seeds ferment to make very strong beverages used by many different tribes. Several of the techniques used by these peoples are worth mentioning. The Susilgerim dwarves dig out small caves specifically for this purpose. These caves usually have a pit in their center, into which is poured sugar, water, and Beerlay. This pit is then carefully sealed by a stone cap. The stone masonry skills of the Susilgerim allows them to create a cap that will fit perfectly over the pit, sitting over the ledge carved out by the dwarves for this purpose. The mixture is then allowed to ferment for several months. The Kuglimz men construct clay pots to put a similar mixture in, which they bury underground during fermentation. The Kanapan men use the hide of a furno to make a pouch in which to place the Beerlay and other ingredients. These are hung in a shack specially built for this purpose, and most villages share one such shack.

The southern variety of the Red Grain is not usable for flour, but the Beerlay it produces is still fermentable. It does, however, produce a beer much weaker than the northern version. It makes superb malt, and is one of the ingredients of the hobbits’ malt-coffee. It is said that several malt beverages made from this plant have been a favorite of the Santharian king and his court for many generations.
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Reproduction. The Red Grain reproduces solely by flower pollination, and the production of its seeds, the Beerlay. Therefore it is always necessary for a farmer to save a portion of the crop of this plant to use to grow next year’s crop. This plant blooms every spring, and keeps its flowers through out the summer. These flowers are not pollinated by other creatures, but by a peculiar process the plant uses. Three times over the summer this plant produces sacs of pollen which burst, spewing their contents into the air. These then pollinate other flowers, and seeds are produced. In this way, the plant actually can produce three crops within a growing season. The Red Grain withers and dies in as the first frost of winter begin, leaving its many seeds behind to grow next year's crop. However, this is usually accomplished by farmers and not by the forces of nature.
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Myth/Lore. The flowers of the northern variety of Red Grain have designs on them, formed by the veins in their petals. These designs are an arrow, a square, and a circle. Finding a flower that has all five of the same symbol on it is considering to be extremely good luck and is quite rare. Each symbol gives the luck a different meaning. Five arrows means a time of plentiful food is coming, squares (representing an anvil) is said to portend great wealth in the future, and circles mean a long life for the finder of the flower. It has become a custom among both the human and dwarven children of the continent to search through the fields of Red Grain for flowers of these kinds.

The flowers of the Southern version of this plant are viewed by humans in a similar way. It is rare to find a multi-coloured flower, but even more difficult to find one on which all three petals are the same colour. Red is said to mean that the finder will discover their true love soon, pink is said to be an omen of having many children, and green means that food will be in abundance. A flower with all three colours is even rarer, and it portends several important things. First, a person who manages to find such a flower is considered to be smiled upon by the Gods, and to be a source of good luck. It is said that only a person of noble heart can find this flower, and they are usually given a position of leadership in the community. Called the “King’s Flower”, for the first to find this rare sight was indeed a king of Santharia, the flower has only been found six times in known history. All those who found the flower, excepting the king, went on to become nobility. All six were renowned for their kindness, courage, and leadership in their time.
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 Date of last edit 28th Frozen Rivers 1668 a.S.

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