By Julie Collins
In the northernmost part of the Valley of Lake Malaren near Stockholm, Sweden the ugliest little root known to man has thrived.
This remote area of Lake Malaren is home to the Swedish Lynx, a wildcat that looks a little like a domesticated Maine Coon.
The soil there is crusty on the outside, providing warmth in the summer to the Lynx, then soft directly underneath its hardened outer layers.
It seemed a wasteland before it was discovered that it is where ginger root can grow. Because no plant or tree or animal (save for the Lynx) could survive on this soil. Russia, the country that had owned this wasteland, sold it to Sweden with the understanding that Sweden would pay back the sale of the land with the profits that were made from whatever could be miraculously exported off of it.
But, Sweden’s horticulturists gave up the cause at the turn of the century, alerting the Swedish government of this wasted incompatible territory. Just as the Swedish government were to dynamite through this land to build a ski resort, Russian and French animal activists whose ancestry were tied to the land, protested!
”The Lynx will go extinct if you blast away the soil!” They cried.
They reminded Sweden that the land abutting beautiful Lake Malaren was the serene home to the docile Lynx. But with its close view of peaking mountains, nearby forestry and so close to Stockholm, the Government gave a good fight.
”This is prime location for a resort and wi boost our tourism department!” They argued.
Eventually whoever, the protestors won their fight when animals rights groups got involved and the Lynx were safe.
However, the Government still wanted to do something useful with this land. After all, decades had passed and they had never paid Russia back for the land that was sold to them. Tensions were mounting between the two countries due to this unpaid debt.
They petitioned Governments of other countries to hire state issued horticulturists to find a plant, a tree or any kind of root that might work with this unique soil. They offered a sizable grant to anyone who could break the soil. They also offered a yearly stipend for every bloom or bud that grew out of the soil. Countries being in economic decline jumped at this unique opportunity from Sweden.
France was the first to start digging at Lake Malaren. They were suffering a decline in a particular type of orange blossom that was used in the most sought after parfum that France exported. Tiny fragrant orange blossom trees were planted and within 7 weeks they had died. The soil had rejected them. France arrogantly waved this notion off as a ridiculous fancy and returned home.
Italy came with great bravado! Displaying their finest branch to the Swedish Ambassador, they promised a vineyard full of ripened grapes to make the earthiest, boldest flavorful wines. Within two weeks, the baby branches had all died and were skinny corpses laid to rest on the hardened Swedish soil.
The United States came with a grin and a cause, of course. “Corn is what you need!” they announced to the Swedish consulate. “It’s healthy, natural, you can use it’s oil for lots of things, and by golly it tastes just dandy when popped and drenched in butter!” “Naturally!” The Swedish government agreed and watched in eagerness as the corn was planted. Within two months, all the stalks had browned and were dried up. “Well,” the US said. “We gave it the old college try.” And off they went, to excavate other lands.
For the longest while the area lay dormant. It was strange patch of nothing in the midst of the beautiful blooms and mountains that surrounded it.
Thirty eight years had passed. One day a Russian scientist was passing through this area. He remembered his wife’s French grandfather telling the story about the land that seemed to reject everything planted on it. He confirmed with his wife that indeed it was Lake Malaren, where he was standing. Unlike his predecessors, he knelt down to palm the soil. He felt where some places it was warm, and some places where it was quite cool to the touch. He studied the Lynx and their movement across this little patch of land. Why they would move northern during some parts of the day, and why southern in others. He measured its size and took stock of the nightly habitats that scurried across it under the moonlight.
His final summation was that the only plant that could possibly thrive on this apparent wasted patch of land was the Ginger root. For it too had a temperamental side. Perhaps the two could work together with their difficulty harvesting.
He spoke with the Russian government and convinced them to let him try it out. After all, if it worked and the ginger root could flourish, this was an export that Russia could benefit from, and the stipend that had never been paid for all these decades could finally be paid off. The Swedish and Russian governments drew up the old documents and the planting started.
At first the scientist only planted a few plants to test the soil. He didn’t want to immediately choke it of its space. He worried that if too many were planted, the land, having been empty for so long might go into shock and immediately reject the ginger root.
Within weeks, the tiniest frailest little buds started to sprout. He had to put fencing around the buds to keep the Lynx from eating the fledgling green. Hundreds of hours of correspondence were documented daily on the tiny buds that bloomed into stalks, then flowers. The scientist neglected his wife, his work and even his children to watch in amazement as the small unassuming ginger flowers started to take shape. Surely he thought he had seen nothing as beautiful.
Over time, the Lynx realized the value of the plants, and took to only feeding off the dead leaves or petals that fell, as new blooms took their place, and given time nature took its course and there were hundreds of plants sprouting all over the soil that was once considered a barren wasteland.
The Governments were delighted and created an odd little alliance in the horticulture department.
Of course the Swedish and Russian economy boomed since Ginger is used for everything from cleaning to medicinal, to the spicing of foods and in ancient civilizations was considered an aphrodisiac. The Ginger root that grew on this once barren wasteland that rejected every attempt to grow on it, was now being exported worldwide. All agreed it was the best of its kind.
To this day, as passersby stop by Lake Maclaren to picnic or take photos of the looming mountain peaks, or dip a toe in the lovely cool waters, the sweet clean scent of Ginger permeates the air and calls to them. They always go to the plant and touch its flowers, looking on in amazement as the docile Lynx lay beneath its cool stalks. A sweet scented flower is usuallly plucked and placed in the hair of a little girl, or in the button of a properly dressed gentleman.
The scientist checks in on the plants from time to time; an unassuming man, he felt much pride in having been the first to find life where there once was none. The Swedish government dedicated a beautiful bench to the scientist. He often sits on it reminiscing to this day.