Saturday, July 26, 2008

The "Gras" Knife



Recently, after posting about "Asparagus", I received a lovely letter detailing several interesting facts and this wonderful picture of an Asparagus knife. They came from Annette who lives in the Vale of Evesham, which I was excited to learn is famous for growing Asparagus. As a matter of fact, this was her husband's grandfather's actual asparagus knife, used in the field for cutting the lovely delicacy... at least 100 years old!!... and still going...

She tells of the wooden handle being worn smooth and serving its owner very well for many years... that it has a hand shape at the end of the blade... and that over there across the ocean, asparagus is known as 'gras...

I like that this tool was designed to do a particular job and that it did it well... That is good design and must have been a pleasure to use. How wonderful that it had been treasured enough to be handed down the family line... quite a functional artifact!!






Annette said that the 'gras has a season from late April to mid June, depending on the weather... and on warm nights she has heard it said that you could watch it grow, several inches a night!!!.... oh, don't I wish we had that kind of weather here!

The asparagus is cut, carefully by hand and tied with string into bundles, called "rounds".

During this season, all around the Vale, roadside stands spring up ready to sell the 'gras, which in her area has a distinctive, almost sweet, earthy taste and some people reckon that they can tell where each "round" was grown...


There is even a local pub called "The Round of Gras" which serves Asparagus suppers.... I can only imagine the lucky people attending them....




Annette shared that they love to eat it with grilled bacon and baby new potatoes with liberal dots of butter!! Although she says her favourite way is to put hot asparagus, straight from the pan, onto a plate with thinly sliced brown bread and butter, then go into the garden and sit on the grass and have Hot Asparagus sandwiches!.... Heaven!!!

Wish I could join her!..........Thank-you Annette!!




Next year I'll be having the first harvest of "gras" from my garden.... Now I can't wait!!

.

19 comments:

Anet said...

What a great story from Annette! Tell me about your asparagus growing... I've never seen this before, where's the feathery looking foliage? Is this how it starts? How is it planted? I have so many questions...

Robyn said...

Wow I've never seen asparagus growing before...or a Gras knife for that matter....and as for hot asparagus sandwhiches..oh boy! Yummy!

Annette said...

Gwen, thank you so much! I have enjoyed this sharing, and your post is super.
I showed it to Mike's mum, who is in her 80s and although the technology is a bit baffling to her, she was thrilled. She told us she could well remember her father using his knife, when she was just a little girl.
He was a fascinating man, but that's another story.
Your garden looks very healthy and productive and I'm sure next year's 'gras' will be absolutely delicious.
Thank you again for caring. regards, Annette

Sharon said...

What a simple and elegant tool. Like you, I'd never seen one before.

Ruth said...

Did I miss something? What does the tool do? Looks as though it has 'teeth' at the end. Is it for shredding it?

You manage to make everything romantic, Gwen. This is a wonderful post, and because I'm reading about the origin of myth in Robert Graves' 'The White Goddess' (remember Anet's?) romantic themes are abundant. I think what I mean is that there is beauty in life all around us, and your posts always, always get at that. Thank you. Your photos are just great, and I love hearing about Annette's 'gras' knife and recipes.

Simple pleasures.

Gwen Buchanan said...

Anet and Ruth, thanks for asking!!!

I guess I went about it backwards but as long as we discover new things along the way.. I don't think the sequence matters. so in my mixed up way... and as I am learning as I go along too... I'll try to add to my knowledge bank of this lovely garden delicacy.


yes, Anet, Robyn, Sharon and Ruth, these pictures are of my tiny row of asparagus, taken back on May 10, the same cool day I was planting my snow peas...(please pardon the weeds!) The 'gras had slowly been popping there heads up a few days before that... I was so excited... I would go and check on them everyday...when they start they grow quickly!!

I haven't done this next joyous event yet but I'm on tip-toes waiting for next year... this is a bit more info that I have discovered.. Annette may need to add the things I have left out...

...as soon as the spears reach a height of 4-5", This special knife was used to cut the asparagus about 2-3 inches below the level of the soil... It is cut every day, if necessary... never letting the spears grow too tall before cutting.

Some people nowadays snap it off about ground level but they are losing the length under ground... But I am thinking one would have to be an experienced 'gras harvester to know how to cut below grade and not damage the other developing buds...as they continue popping up during the following weeks and they can continue to be cut till the spears diameter becomes less than 3/8th of an inch... So I have much respect for people who know the vegetable so well and have that delicate touch and knowing.. as they were and are masters of the growing of Asparagus...

..on planting asparagus.. the thick dangling roots are spread out on mounds below ground level and then gently covered with soil as the shoots grow..
well this is part of my learning about asparagus.. hope I have filled in a bit of wonder.. lots more to learn though.

**************

Annette, I was so touched by your thoughtfulness and I certainly couldn't have done this posting without all of your gracious willingness to share. Thank you so much, again!!! Hi to your husband's Mom!!

Here's to Hot Asparagus Sandwiches!

Sandy said...

Oh...so interesting to read and so delicious sounding to eat.

Love the angle of the photos!

Don said...

We have asparagus growing wild around here. I wonder if I can tame it?

I am going to give it a try.

Cool idea for a post, nice info and very interesting history for that tool.

dberube-art said...

I'll be there for the harvest next year, ;0) Send directions please!!!

Bill Evertson said...

I wish that k and i had a wonderful story. I'll be content in yours. Gramp attempts but deer prevail.

Gwen Buchanan said...

hey Thanks Sandy!
.......

Don, I figure the wild asparagus is just seeds blown in the wind... I have not seen any here.

I would dig it up for sure if it was me. especially if it is just growing along the roadsides.. I'm sure if you give it a bit of TLC you'll have success. Good Luck!!

.................

David, I be watching for you with the steaming brown bread!
................

Luckily, Bill, the deer have been keeping their distance, we have lots of forest for them to get lost in, but there is a town close to the city that is getting pretty populated with people and the deer still think the gardens are planted for them. They are all finding it very difficult to have gardens of any kind..

...........

denise said...

I love finding tools of days past which had such a perfectly designed utility. Great story!

Gwen Buchanan said...

oh yes denise, same here... simplicity and function.

Jazz said...

Oh, I love asparagus. Mr. Jazz grills it directly on the BBQ and then you pour a vinaigrette of balsamic vinager, olive oil and garlic over it and garnish with parmesan shavings... Mmmmmmmmmm heavanly.

Aparagus pee... not so heavenly LOL

Karen said...

Hello Gwen,
Thanks for visiting my blog and your kind comments.
I recently had to look after my neighbours garden whilst she went to Spain. Had to make sure pots etc didn't dry out. She had an asparagus bed and I was allowed to help myself!
It was delicious! :)

Love your Jewellery by the way!

rivergardenstudio said...

What a wonderful story from Annette...I love the way you tell all your stories Gwen, some history, beauty and humanness all tied together through the eyes and words of an artist. Thank you! Roxanne

Gwen Buchanan said...

Karen, thanks so much for coming over,...ahhh asparagus for plant-watering... Great trade!!!

...................

jazz, That sounds so delicious!!!... I think I'll sneak some on the next time John has the burgers going.

Oh and Asparagus pee!! useful out near the cedar hedge to deter those sweet deer.. a purpose for everything..
...................

Roxanne that is so kind of you.. I love the photos of your trip to France.... and the drawings and watercolors you did there!!! Beautiful!

Jo Horswill said...

Pure joy to read...
Thank you Gwen...I will be dreaming of asparagus sandwiches too.

Gwen Buchanan said...

Jo, I thought it was so cool that Annette showed it to her Mother-in-law.. so cool that we can connect all around the world!