Also known as: dar, dar flower, darseed flower.
Identification and Field Marks
The darseed is a bi-annual plant in the Oh-Look-A-Pretty-Flower family which grows up to one unanit and has a flower head that is as much as three nanits across and notable for turning to face towards the two moons of Ghyll, Pinky and Perky. In the Spring, the flowers face towards Pinky and in the later Summer, towards Perky. The stalk is a brilliant, emerald green with a fine network of pale yellow veins. The petals of the flower are the deepest cerulean, while the darseeds themselves are actually a brilliant ultraviolet with the finest velvety infrared highlights. Of course, most of the seed is actually a hard, rather foul-tasting husk which contains a sweeter fruit. It is this inner fruit which is generally referred to as the darseed.
Darseed flowers are one of those rarest of all plants, the bi-annual, blooming in both the late Spring and late Fall. It should be noted, however, that darseeds collected in the Spring are fit only for replanting and will not do for Calends Gala judging.
Oddly enough, the darseed has no known relatives or offshoots, though it is rumored that a certain sect of religious farmers is working on a "more humble" variety that has bowed heads.
Darseed flowers have been cultivated for so long that no one is quite sure where they originated. They are successfully farmed as far North as Baleman and at least as far South as Iganefta. Most scholars agree that, given enough water and manure, darseed flowers could be grown almost anywhere.
Of chief importance is darseed oil, extracted from not only the seeds, but also the flower petals and stalk. Indeed, nothing is wasted in darseed oil production! The oil is used for cooking as a carrier oil, and even to light the way of certain religious zealots in their traditional darseed oil lamps. The pulp remaining after the darseeds and plants have been processed for oil is used to make the fine paper on which the Folktown Records weekly newspaper is printed and the lesser pulp is ground into a mash to be used as a livestock feed.
The darseed husks, which in ancient times were discarded, have also found use with occultologists and other scholars in the making of special inks. It is especially favored by those wishing to make inks invisible to the naked eye. Unfortunately, this was discovered as a byproduct of a hair restoration tonic sold by that most infamous of charlatans, Professor Ignatius Maximillian Albertus Crank (no relation, thank you!).
Certain experiments by the Brothers of the Lantern seem to show that it is possible to materially improve the atmosphere in damp and moldering neighborhoods by the planting of the darseed flower. There is some mysterious ozone or other atmosphere given off by the darseed flower which is potent in destroying the malarial condition of such an area. The darseed, if planted on the most restricted scale in a garden or any ground close to the house, will be found to speedily increase the dryness and salubrity of the atmosphere.
Of great social importance is the traditional darseed judging at the Calends Gala. It is at this event that darseed farmers dress in their brightly colored clothes, four-tasseled hat and false nose, and bring their wares for judging. Many a darseed farming family fortune has been made or lost at this seemingly light-hearted event! It is also traditionally the time when the future darseed farmers of Ghyll are betrothed to their future wives by clasping their brightly gloved hands and giving their "Four H Pledge". There are regional variations on this Pledge, but it generally runs as follows: "For my farm, my county, my country, and my world, I pledge my head to clear thinkin', my hands to thy service, my health to better livin' and my heart to thee."
Of special note is the traditional method of harvest. Both crops are harvested in a like manner, though only the second harvest is presided over by Calends Gala judges. The traditional darseed harvest costume consists of deep maroon pants, or skirts for lady farmers, and a loose chartreuse tunic which is tightly buttoned from wrist to elbow. The traditional boots are chartreuse red and curl to a point. During the actual harvest, the harvesters wear matching red, leather gloves, but during the judging these are replaced by brilliant orange, cotton variants. These are also the gloves worn for the darseed farmer betrothal ceremony. The most important garment in the darseed farmer's costume is their four-cornered hat. At each corner is a silk tassel representing the four directions and are colored appropriately; green for North, yellow for East, red for South, and blue for West. The head of a darseed family household can be identified by the nanit long brass spike on the top of their hat. The false nose is only worn both seasons by the most traditional darseed farmers, but in all cases, it is a necessity for the judging.
The actual darseed threshing scythe is a wonderment to see in action. The circular blade is a full six nanits long and is razor sharp. Truly, it is a miracle that the blade does not fly off its axle when the harvesters begin to whirl the scythe in its overhand, circular motion as proscribed by the ancients. When the harvesters themselves start their spinning harvest "dance", the uninitiated are well advised to stay out of the fields. How the harvest is accomplished only by the light of the two moons has been a matter of great interest and debate amongst Ghyll scholars for many, many years!
--Doctor Phineas Crank 21:33, 28 Sep 2004 (EDT)