purchased at the grocery store or at the farmer's market,
asparagus spears are usually sold in bunches. Prior to the
process becoming automated, these bunches were formed manually
using mechanisms such as this one, manufactured by E.D.M.
Co. of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Patents for similar bunchers
with seemingly more complex mechanisms filed in the early
20th century suggest that this particular model is an earlier
version, perhaps from the last quarter of the 19th century.
The difficulty posed in bunching asparagus is twofold: it
is a delicate plant and the stalks are of uneven length. Using
this mechanism, a bunch was selected and the stalks were clamped
in place; they were then tied with string, twine, or raffia
fiber and later with rubber bands. Finally, the butts of the
stalks were cut. The large wooden block at the base of the
buncher served to protect the edge of the blade. Thus prepared,
asparagus remained fresh for a long time if kept standing
in water or packed in ice.
The cast iron frame has copper interior liners designed to
hold the asparagus. The adjustable locking mechanism is cast
brass and has slots for three different bunch sizes. The sliding
mechanism at the top of the tool would have had a wooden or
metal base attached to even out the asparagus spear tips.