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    Daemon

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    cool Designing alien planet food crops

    Yo! Here I am, taking world building mayhaps a bit too far.
    But don't worry, got a special question ready - just for you, right here.

    The backstory: posted this question back at rpg.stackexchange.com, and they didn't like me for that ... much. However, they suggested that such questions are better suited for forums. So, here you go (the original text):

    From the perspective of world building, let me ask you for a few examples of elaborated food crops that grow on an alien planet, in a completely alien ecosystem (yes indeed - I'm asking you for a few out of the blue inventions here).

    As a reference, here is a rather lightweight list of the most consumed earthly crops:

    • Wheats (cultivated in lowlands, not-so-good crop yield, European traditional crop)
    • Potatoes (grows even in highlands, good yield, practically unknown until the modern era)
    • Maize ("mesomarican grain", excellent yield but the crop doesn't contain much protein (can only be used as a supplement to a diet, not a basis))
    • Rice (good yield and ripes more than once a season, but requires a lot of maintenance and a watery land)


    So, let's see what you come up with. As long as you keep your crops rooted in the soil of an earth-like planet, feel free to use any alien ecosystem that you may have in mind (as that can be later adjusted).
    A verbal description of the crops' looks (or even an image) would also come in handy.

    To further describe my question and clear up on the ambiguities, let's say the crops in making should have this set of properties fleshed out:

    1. An appearance of the whole plant
    2. An appearance of the fruit
    3. A certain taste
    4. A certain composition (i.e. proteins, saccharides, lipids, fats, etc.)
    5. A certain yield rate
    6. A way to plant, cultivate and harvest the crops
    7. A certain soil/environment requirement
    8. Perhaps a crop-specific advantage & a weak spot
    9. Perhaps a culture-related beliefs/rituals involving the crop
    10. Just maybe, a few more properties i haven't even thought of
    Here's the deal: you describe the plant* and I'll draw it.
    *) A solid, drawable plant design description needs to include quite some information on the visuals of the plant (especially the shape). Apart from that, I won't be drawing plants that are either too complex or of a tasteless design.
    Last edited by Johnny.JJ; 2012-07-25 at 10:58 AM.

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    Default Re: Designing alien planet food crops

    1. Large, grey stalk with little bumps on it.
    2. A large blue bulb rests at the end of the stalk, and is filled with a purple slime of sorts that dries quickly.
    3. Sweet, but if the bulbs removed and left in a dry space, slowly turns solid and almost becomes meaty in texture with a slightly alcholic aftertaste.
    4. Sugery.
    5. One bulb per plant.
    6. Generaly pluck the top off without harming the small bulbs below, for they will slowly move up the plant to the top.
    7. Wet, with nearly no humidity, which causes smaller growths.
    8. Touching the spots where the bulbs are causes brusing.
    9. If someone breaks a bulb on the ground, the spot that the slime seeps into is prime space for growing trees. Actualy, this is because most animals will focus on the stcky goodness and ignore the fragile seedlings, hence the stupid off worlders who did not trust the tribal peoples never actualy got there harvest.
    10. Heavy users of the plant may gain a slight green pigment in there skin, and those who eat the plant after fermenting the first time will experance something akin to a bad trip.
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    Daemon

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    Thumbs up Re: Designing alien planet food crops

    Dear Mr. Undead Pony,

    I like your plant. In fact, I consider it an A-grade effort (the design has some major flavour to it ... 'cause it's a booze plant! (I love booze plants!))

    Aaaaaaand, here you go:


    You know, I'm no master drawer, but anyway, does this image match the supposed appearance of the plant?

    Note on the scale factor: I expected the whole plant to be about two feet tall. Could that be it?
    Last edited by Johnny.JJ; 2012-07-16 at 05:24 AM.

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    Default Re: Designing alien planet food crops

    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny.JJ View Post
    Dear Mr. Undead Pony,

    I like your plant. In fact, I consider it an A-grade effort (the design has some major flavour to it ... 'cause it's a booze plant! (I love booze plants!))

    Aaaaaaand, here you go:


    You know, I'm no master drawer, but anyway, does this image match the supposed appearance of the plant?

    Note on the scale factor: I expected the whole plant to be about two feet tall. Could that be it?
    Yep, thats about it. Holy crap, I hardly expected someone to draw the dang things.
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    Default Re: Designing alien planet food crops

    For the alcohol plant, what is the plants original purpose? as in, rice doesn't grow to be eaten, that's just a happy bonus. Why does it grow this sticky substance? Was it a protective process so that animals didn't eat the plant but instead the goo? Was it to attract animals to fertilize the area around it with their excrement as they stayed? Was it to trap insects who would damage the plant?

    How does it reproduce? Are the seeds inside the bulb? And therefore in the goo? It seems to me if it was, then the sugary nature of the goo could have been to assist in the spread of the plant. An animal eats the goo and then excretes the seeds later in a different place, the dung a perfect bed of fertilizer to assist the seed to grow.
    Last edited by TheWombatOfDoom; 2012-07-18 at 07:10 AM.
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    Daemon

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    Default Re: Designing alien planet food crops

    Well, you said it yourself - the plant can't just be growing around because of its own good looks. It needs to adopt a successful reproduction strategy (otherwise it'd extinct).

    An animal eating the goo with the seed included, and then fertilizing the seed with some poo sounds like a possible approach.
    On top of that, I'd suggest the still-growing bulb on top of the plant being a bit poisonous before maturing and falling off the plant to the ground (as the bulb matures, it loses the poison).
    Why establishing this precaution? Because otherwise there would be greedy animals lurking around, eating half-matured bulbs off the plant, possibly damaging the plant in the process.

    Does that make sense?

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    Default Re: Designing alien planet food crops

    Sounds good to me. It might want to have a smell too, to warn creatures away. It looks fairly delicate and top heavy! Does it grow close to other plants or is it solitary?
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    Daemon

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    Default Re: Designing alien planet food crops

    A stinking, poisonous purple slime ... we're getting there.

    The plant may look delicate and fragile, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. The nature is known for handling even seemingly more unrealistic designs than this.

    There goes poppy (the opium plant), a plant of similar design. It does hold together.

    As for our little plant with its strategy of dropping the mature crops on the ground, I'd suggest keeping the plants a bit spacious (at least a 1ft diameter?) so that the critters can actually reach the surroundings of the specific plant and eat the ripe droppings.
    Last edited by Johnny.JJ; 2012-07-18 at 04:39 PM.

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    Default Re: Designing alien planet food crops

    1. Leafy bush plant, leaves green in color with red colored veins.
    2. The root is the primary edible portion of the plant, and looks like a bulbous, bright red carrot. The flower is colored like the leaves, but large and ornate (for a flower.)
    3. Earthlings would say the root tastes like a starchy, cinnamon flavored bean sprout. The leaves are often ground up and used for spicing and flavoring other foods.
    4. Nutritionally the same as a potato and carrot.
    5. One mature plant produces about a pound of leaves that can be cultivated every 6 months. The root can be harvested after only 3.
    6. Cutting an existing mature root in half can yield two plants if properly cared for.
    7. Plant prefers high nitrogen soils and moderate shade.
    8. The nectar and seeds of this plant are poisonous to all but a few of the native species.
    9. The seeds of the flower of this plant are sometimes used in herbicides and cultural hallucinogens for many coming of age rituals.

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    Last edited by Logic; 2012-07-18 at 06:49 PM.
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    Default Re: Designing alien planet food crops

    Hmm...
    Lets see if this idea is suitable.

    1. In appearance, it resembles many Earth grasses. It turns gray in the dry seasons and turns green when there is rain.
    2. Fruit? What fruit? You could wait for it to yield seed, but the seeds are much too small to be used for anything. What you want is the leaves themselves.
    3. This should never be used as the main part of a meal, as it is almost tasteless. However, it is capable of absorbing the flavour of spices.
    4. Carbohydrates mostly, and proteins. Surprisingly for a grass, it has little fibre and is easy to digest after cooking.
    5. You can eat the entire plant except the roots. It grows to a height of one and a half metres and requires little water or fertiliser, and as such, the yield can be very high.
    6. Traditionally, it was harvested from the wild, but now is grown in large fields. Before the invention of farming machinery, it was cut by hand after it had set seed. By leaving the roots and allowing it to seed itself, it grows back the next year.
    7. It hates being wet and prefers dry conditions.
    8. Its primary advantage is it's capability of surviving in land otherwise unsuited for agriculture. However, it is vulnerable to fires in the dry seasons and an entire crop can be lost that way.
    9. Traditionally, the plant is served with meat, vegetables and spices in a variety of dishes. Despite the fact that one must prepare it in a certain way prior to consumption, it isn't hard to do. As such, the dishes that make use of it have become favourites in many other places. A traditional alcoholic beverage can be made by fermenting the plant, but this lacks popularity due to its strength and the time required for fermentation.
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    Default Re: Designing alien planet food crops

    Thanks for the ideas guys. There is however one point I need to put stress on: In order for me to be able to draw anything, you gotta provide a rich description of the visuals of the plant. Functional description of a plant is cute, but it is only secondary to the appearance. And as for the visuals, shapes are important, colors aren't significant that much.

    Elemental: again, appreciate your input. But It would be pointless for me to draw it ... because it's, well, an ordinary piece of grass.

    Logic: here is a rough estimate of what you might have had on your mind:



    EDIT: Dear Landis963, the first post now includes the information on plant drawing.
    Last edited by Johnny.JJ; 2012-07-25 at 11:00 AM.

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    Default Re: Designing alien planet food crops

    You might want to add a note about drawing the plants to the OP, because there's nothing there that would imply that. At least there's nothing noticeable. I'll add another plant to the mix later, when I have a better keyboard in front of me. nvm, I see the note now.

    1. Appears to be a small, dense bush with dark green leaves and bright white nuts.
    2. The nuts have a bright white shell, with a light amber flesh.
    3. Sharp and smooth; Earthers would describe it as a cross between a hazelnut and a macadamia.
    4. Fats, consistently, other nutrients are taken from the soil.
    5. Depends on the soil; in a rich soil it can produce a basketful of the nuts, while in rockier soils it only produces a handful.
    6. It just needs a way to rejuvenate the soil between harvests, and manual labor is necessary to pick the nuts without ruining the bush.
    7. As mentioned, it tends to suck the nutrients out of the soil, so it needs some good fertilizer in order to avoid the rest of your crops giving out.
    8. However, it is surprisingly hardy, despite its leeching nature.
    9. No real religious significance beyond a trickster story telling how the sky god was conned into putting part of himself into these bushes.
    10. If toasted and ground up, it makes a filling base to bake bread with.
    Last edited by Landis963; 2012-07-28 at 12:55 PM.
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    Default Re: Designing alien planet food crops

    Not exactly how I imagined it, but it works fine based on my description.
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    Default Re: Designing alien planet food crops

    1. A big, smooth, round mound that sits on the ground, mottled red and orange in colour. Sprouting from the mound in all directions are long, thinner extensions of the plant (like stalks) from which the end curls upward.
    2. Growing around the end of the stalks (but leaving the middle exposed) are square fruits with rounded corners. The fruits are orange in colour and sticky.
    3. Mango Biscuit
    4. Lots and lots of protein.
    5. Between 40 - 50 fruit every 3 months. Bigger plants produce more stalks and bigger fruit, but take longer to make a complete fruit.
    6. These plants co-evolved with native flying creatures. The flying creatures hop from plant to plant, standing on and eating the fruit. In the process, their feet/fur/body gets sticky and they transfer that to the exposed middle of the stalk, which pollinates the plant. Later, the plant releases spores from the end of the stalk which travel with the wind and can begin the process of growing a new plant. A new plant takes many years to grow and does not produce any stalks until a certain size is reached. It can not self pollinate, and the sticky substance on the fruit contains proteins vital for the growth of new plants. When a fruit has been eaten or taken off, a new fruit starts growing in its place. The older the plant gets, the bigger it grows and the more stalks it produces, until it becomes no longer feasible for creatures to eat its fruit. An easy way for a sentient species to cultivate is to hand pollinate and catch the spores.
    7. Needs a very wet environment.
    8. Puncturing the smooth, round surface releases a toxic yellow gas, and will sometimes deflate it by a certain amount, depending on the size of the puncture. Eventually the puncture will seal itself. Removing a plant that has grown too large is dangerous.
    9. Traditionally served as part of or entirely as a dessert. The plant can be, and often is, cultivated to farm the toxic gas it expels when punctured, though specialized training in doing so is required so as not to deflate the entire plant.
    10. A fully deflated plant makes for a good leather if treated properly.
    Last edited by DawnbringerSO; 2012-08-05 at 01:00 PM.

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