Kesh is a very dangerous crop. Reportedly introduced from Lost Izagone itself, it was first introduced to the races of men by the Burdinadin, with the promise that it was a fine new crop that could grow anywhere, and which could sustain great numbers of people easily.
"Easily," of course, is a dangerous word when it is spoken by a people used to isolating themselves from the outside world and filtering their air through multiple layers of charcoal and chemical siphons.
Kesh itself resembles a large artichoke, except that tendrils, not unlike those of a sea anemone except much longer, extend from its base and reach outwards. Kesh is grown in trenches, which are flooded with water. These quickly fill with its writhing tentacle mass, and grow to stink of death and decay, in a most revolting fashion. Scavengers and other desperate animals are drawn to this scent, however.
When the sun falls, Kesh flowers emit an oil which, upon contacting air, turns into a voluminous poisonous gas. Its sticky tendrils emerge from the water, and seek out fleshy things to draw back into its pool, and add to the fertilizing brew. This has the effect of getting rid of everything from flies to vultures to unrestrained dogs. When harvest season comes, the trenches are drained, and the Kesh dies in the open air. Its bulbs can then be cracked open, and the grain can be harvested. Kesh plants have a heart at their core, which beats and seems to be the core of the plant. These are considered a delicacy by some, and are often sold for high amounts come harvest season.
Kesh farmers tend to operate from bunker-like houses, carefully sealed with greased straw. The poison gas of the plant is a serious risk, and the farmers must emerge every morning with knives and cleavers to strike down tentacles that have reached too far, lest they slither into the house and open it up to the death that awaits outside.
Kesh doesn't grow exclusively in Dace, but very few people are willing to risk the extreme danger that the stuff poses. Mostly it is farmed for the hearts, outside of Dace.
In Dace, however, Kesh is a very efficient way to dispose of human corpses, and produce food at the same time. Bodies are simply left near the trenches, and vanish overnight. Harvest season is almost a war, as thousands of men with swords and oiled cloths over their faces tear into the tentacled masses, which grow in such volume from overfeeding that they no longer confine themselves to the pits in daytime. Some of these "farmers" swear that the Kesh tries to defend itself, but they are usually dismissed as delusional due to toxins. Their life expectancy is low, but it isn't because of the poison. Many are dragged into foul-smelling brown water, screaming and clawing at the earth, never to be seen again.
In most places, however, three or four bulbs are grown by specialist farmers, and no more. Stories of entire towns disappearing after growing too much Kesh abound, and few have an interest in tempting fate.
It is unclear if there even is a limit to the size that the stuff can grow. So long as its diet is steady, Kesh never dies, it is only once the food supply (or the water) dries up that it releases its seeds into the air.
In the heavily fertilized Kesh Fields, it is imperative that the bulbs be periodically harvested, to keep them from growing too large. Certain ambitious parties have attempted to grow individual Kesh bulbs huge on purpose, so as to secure massive hearts for commercial sale and, some whisper, magical purposes.
The harvesting of Kesh is apparently a violent affair, as the Kesh fights back with its tendrils to avoid being killed. Dacians with machetes and hooked spears swarm the bulbs and drag them out of their pits to be butchered. Men die.
The closest thing to fantasy bread is stuff made out of Kesh, which is a reddish color, and has a bitter taste, but is very wholesome. The stuff tastes terrible without accompaniment though, and it isn't really grown as a cash crop because nobody wants it. The Dacians eat a lot of it though because Kesh will grow anywhere--the Vedrimites normally have it with vinegar, and the Pishkans slather it in cheese. The Volkodavs famously carry loaves of the stuff to feed to their horses.
Some people keep a sort of Bonsai Kesh around as decorations or quasi-pets, but they tend to smell really bad unless you're an expert in chemistry, and can change the water supply constantly with something rich enough to suppress their poison-gas hunting technique that also doesn't smell like dead shit.
There are a few botanists who maintain that Kesh possess the ability to "learn" over the course of time, and suggest that a Kesh plant could be trained through behavioral reinforcement to act in a certain ways so as to make them more aggressive in dragging living things into their pits, or even so as to make them harmless. These academics are normally shunned by others in their field, who cite the total lack of any sort of brain or anything resembling one in the creatures.
Even so a few aristocrats have been caught clandestinely attempting to train "guard kesh' to defend their treasuries or even the moats of their castles. They are usually chastized and the experiments halted. It has never been confirmed whether or not any of the experiments were actually successful.