Lee Valley Tools    Gardening Newsletter
   Vol. 7, Issue 3
   May 2012
 
   What Is It?
 



What Is it?

Whether 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.

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