The precise origins of many of these fermented specialties are obscure, but colorful legends fill the gaps in the written record. A local story dates the discovery of edible rotten amaranth stalks, for example, to the Spring and Autumn Period in the first millennium B.C., when the king of Yue was captured after a military defeat and taken as prisoner to the neighboring kingdom of Wu. The Yue state had been impoverished by war, and people had to grub around for wild vegetables to survive. During this time, so they say, an old man gathered some wild amaranth stalks, ate their tender leaves, and couldn't bear to throw away the tough, inedible stalks, so he stashed them in a clay pot. Some days later, he noticed a beguiling aroma coming out of the jar. Hungry as he was, he took the stalks, steamed them, and found them to be uncommonly delicious.