Wheat is one
of the most important grain crops on Caelereth,
as the kernels of this plant are often ground into a fine powder called flour
and used to make bread and other such products. Different varieties of Wheat
plants grow for different periods of time, but all of them start out green
before turning to golden-brown, and fields of Wheat at harvest time often look
like a rippling, golden ocean.
Appearance. When young, Wheat appears much like field grass. It’s usually a bright green to dusty green color with a straight stalk. The stalk has small 'knots' or 'knuckles' in the stem from which long, slender leaves spring vertically, usually on opposing sides of the knuckle. Individual stalks can grow up to 1 and a half peds tall and may have leaves almost one fore in length. When the Wheat ripens, it turns to a golden-brown or golden-tan, and the large fields of Wheat become a sea of golden stalks swaying lazily in the wind.
Tightly packed kernels of Wheat form the head, located on the top of the central stem. The head usually holds between 50 and 60 small kernels. These kernels cling tightly to the stalk in tidy rows until they ripen. Single kernels are between 1.5 to 3 grains in length and are usually white, red, or yellow, though in some regions, purple Wheat is common. Sometimes the kernel has a husk, called a beard, because of the prickly hairs that make it up. A few longer hairs run from the bottom of the head up to over its top, forming a graceful protective curve over the kernels.
The root system is located in the upper 40 to 50 nailsbreadths of the soil, though if the soil is loose or unusually dry, they may grow down farther. The roots are usually white or pale tan in color and shaped like miniature tree roots, tapering down to tiny hairs at their ends.
Territory. Wheat is most commonly grown in mild places, usually those that have fairly warm, dry seasons. It is most commonly grown in Southern Sarvonia and on the continent of Nybelmar.
Usages. Wheat flour is probably the most common ingredient in most baking recipes, and is a necessity in any household. It can be used to make any number of food items, including breads, biscuits, and cakes.
In some areas, Wheat is also used to make various types of 'noodles' usually by mixing coarse particles of Wheat into a paste, then rolling them out into thin sheets and cutting them into strips. The strips are dried until needed, then dropped into boiling water until they soften again. They are rather tasteless prepared like this and are often served with some sort of cream, lýth’bél or meat-based sauce, when they become a nourishing and filling meal.
Wheat is also used for animal feed. The parts of the Wheat that are threshed away, known as the husks, are used to feed the livestock and poultry occupants on a miller’s farm.
Fresh Wheat, straight from the husk, can be chewed and forms a kind of gummy, nutty substance in the mouth. This 'Hwaychu', as it's called, is a popular 'candy' with farmer lads and lasses - and from its archaic name, has probably been so from time out of mind! The clean stalks can be braided and woven into bright baskets or small table mats, their golden hue attractive to the eye. In harvest time, a good sheaf with full heads is often saved aside and made into a "Jeyriall-puppet", a sort of woven doll, with the majority of the stalks forming a skirt, while others are raised and braided into arms. The full heads of grain with their 'hair' are left to fall softly over like a woman's bowed head. The puppet is kept up for the harvest season, after which its kernels are saved for the next planting season.
Reproduction. All Wheat reproduces in the same way: through the kernels. Usually a small portion of each harvest is used to help initiate the next. There are two types of Wheat that grow at different periods during the year:
Winter Wheat is planted in the fall and harvested in the spring or summer. Winter Wheat will start growing in the fall, when it is planted, before the winter begins. When winter finally comes, the Wheat will stop growing all together, but strangely it does not die. It will start growing again when the warm weather returns and will ripen and be harvested. If a Winter Wheat is planted in the spring, it will not produce any kernels. It needs the low temperatures of winter in order to grow properly. Winter Wheat kernels are often reddish or purplish in colour.
Spring Wheat is planted in the spring and ripens in the summer of that year. If the Spring Wheat is planted in the fall, it will probably not survive the summer unless the winter is unusually warm or the climate is very mild. Spring Wheat is often an off-white or yellowish hue.
Farmers must ensure that the Wheat has a suitable field to grow
in. The soil should be rich. Farmers make sure their fields are rich by using
decaying vegetable or animal matter to make sure there’s enough nutrients for
their crop. Because Wheat is usually only grown in mild or dry regions, the
farmer must also make sure there is enough moisture in the ground for the plant
to grow. Most farmers achieve this by letting their fields stay fallow for a
year, not planting anything in that specific field.
When the ground is ready for growing, the farmer will scatter seeds across the ground. Some more meticulous farmers will make holes in the soil and drop their seeds in one by one, but most farmers find this method unnecessary. After planting, the farmer can do very little to help his or her plants; patience is a much-needed virtue in grain farming!
However, farmers must watch closely as the Wheat grows, as there are some insects and diseases that can wipe out a crop quickly and thus must be eradicated before they have a chance to spread. One of the most common diseases for Wheat is 'Ergot', a fungal disease that makes the kernels turn a blackish-purple and causes them to puff up, swelling out of their husks. This gives them a rather grotesque look, easily spotted but hard to contain, as the infected kernels break open to release more ergot spores. Weather can also be a common cause of a bad crop. If the weather is too cold or too warm, the Wheat can die.
When the Wheat is ready for harvest, it must be harvested quickly as possible before bad weather ruins it. Farmers harvest Wheat using scythes, a contraption with a curved blade, its inner sharpened side used for cutting the stalk of the grain. After the Wheat is cut, the heads will be threshed (laid down on a stone threshing floor and beaten with flails) to remove the kernels from their husks, and then the kernels will be cleaned, usually by tossing them from basket to basket on a breezy day. After that they are ready for drying and grinding.
Information provided by Rayne Avalotus