Forum: Research Questions

Discussing: Plants of Middle-earth

Plants of Middle-earth

lindelea posted this in another topic, but it seems we should have a plant topic.

Message: 4057

Reply To: 1385

Re: Medical questions and terminology
February 9, 2003 3:11 PM

Would they have had ginger in Middle-earth? it has so many great medicinal uses! I would like to use it in a minor plot point but wasn't sure if it was too off the wall.

lindelea

 

 

Re: Plants of Middle-earth

lindelea,

Would they have had ginger in Middle-earth? it has so many great medicinal uses! I would like to use it in a minor plot point but wasn't sure if it was too off the wall

My herbal knowledge is unfortunately limited. I will answer to the best of my ability, but I am also starting a new topic and transferring this over so those with more botanical knowedge can participate.

Ginger is not one of the plants in Forodwaith's research article dealing with those which were known to be in Middle-earth. Exploring whether it could grow in Middle-earth, I got out my trusty 'Atlas of Middle-earth' and looked at climates. Ginger grows in tropical or subtropical climates. While Harad or Rhun might be hot enough, I suspect they'd be too dry. Anyone with more information?

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: Plants of Middle-earth

We are talking Zingiber officinale right?

Usually found in subtropical or tropical islands - average rainfall greater than 30" per year. I would guess that it might be found on islands off the coast of Harad, and cultivated on the mainland but I would think even if it was to be gotten in ME, it would be a pricey, hard to get comodody.

I have seen it used a lot in H/C fanfics - but it still strikes me as a bit questionable.

Ariel

 

 

Re: Plants of Middle-earth

Ariel's take on it sounds about right to me.

What medicinal purpose did you want to use it for in your story, lindelea? I'm sure there are HASA members who could name a good substitute depending on the desired effect. (I don't know much about herbal medicine myself, unfortunately.)

 

 

Re: Plants of Middle-earth

It does not sound as if ginger could have been grown in the northwest portions of ME, but wouldn't it have been brought in by traders?

Ginger as a medicinal and culinary ingredient has a reasonably long history in Europe:

Brief history of ginger use in Europe

So, it is plausible that it would be known and prized throughout NW Middle-earth, though I assume that (due to the influence of Sauron) trade from ginger-growing regions would be curtailed during the late Third Age, and preserved or powdered ginger is the only forms of it one would find, if it was available at all.

 

 

Re: Plants of Middle-earth

I rather think of it as being traded for from Far Harad and Umbar; we don't know much about the geography of southern ME, but tropical islands suitable for ginger-growing are not unlikely there. Ginger is also grown in China and Australia, so it might not be impossible for it to be grown in southern Gondor, even. Perhaps in greenhouses there?

Personally I imagine that preserved or crystallized ginger would have been a staple of midwinter celebrations in Gondor and possibly even in the Shire - expensive, and some years doubtless scarce or unavailable, but traditional. Not, however, an everyday seasoning.

Cel

 

 

Re: Plants of Middle-earth

Hmm, greenhouses. I don't doubt that the Gondorians would have had the technology, but would they have been able to produce it in large enough amounts, even in greenhouses, for the effort to be worthwhile?

Come to think of it, what would the climate of Gondor's southern shore have been like? More exposed than southern Europe on the Mediterranean, so perhaps not so warm. More open than the Gulf Coast of North America, too. Anyone here a relative expert on the Atlantic coast of Spain & Portugal? I don't think it would be as dry as the coast of Southern California - perhaps like the northern California coast and up into Oregon? That's how I imagine the West coast of ME off of Eriador - the forests of the Blue Mountains I always envision as temperate rainforests, like on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State.

Anyway, I say preserved and crystallized ginger (as well as powdered and dried roots) will be the most recognized forms of it, and that it will be a rare and valuable spice.

Ang

 

 

Re: Plants of Middle-earth

Hmm, greenhouses. I don't doubt that the Gondorians would have had the technology, but would they have been able to produce it in large enough amounts, even in greenhouses, for the effort to be worthwhile?

I have in mind something like the greenhouses built by the aristocracy of Europe in ca. the 18th c., not for commercial purposes so much as for luxuries. Things like growing pineapple in France and England. I could see that happening at the height of Gondor's glory, at least, and once the initial investment in glass etc. is made maintenance might not be unbearably expensive.

Have been to the Atlantic coast of Spain precisely once, back in 1985, in April. The water was chilly, that's all I remember. I don't recall the air being too cold.

The southern coast of Gondor - maybe like the French Mediterranean coast? Didn't JRRT compare Minas Tirith to Venice at one point? So even if the coast is more exposed, it would be even further south, which would presumably compensate? I basically think of S. Gondor as having a Mediterranean-type climate. Stuff like rosemary and oregano would probably grow wild. Not warm enough or wet enough for wild ginger though.

Cel

 

 

Re: Plants of Middle-earth

What plants would they eat for food then? Spinach? Cabbage? Corn? That doesn't sound right somehow..

What are some common indigenous European plants?

Do you think they would have truffles since they already have assorted mushrooms?

Where are some of the best lands for agricultural in Middle Earth?

 

 

Re: Plants of Middle-earth

The Gaffer mentions cabbages, Sam mentions potatoes. I'm sure onions and carrots, turnips, wheat, barley, rye. Apples. Grapes. Pot-herbs which would include spinach and chard and so forth. Leeks.

Corn - well, maize is an American plant in origin, so you'd think not, but so were potatoes and those are explicitly mentioned. So maybe PJ's field of corn wasn't so far off the mark. If corn, then perhaps also tomatoes and peppers.

No idea on truffles.

The Shire was very good farming land. Probably the area around Dale. Some of Gondor must have been, too; we know there was some farming done between Minas Tirith and the Anduin, and I'm sure elsewhere as well.

Celandine

 

 

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