This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol4", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
The cutting is done with a toothed knife (fig. 457) set on a shaft 12 in. long put into a wooden handle. In cutting, the object is to get the full length of the bud without wounding the crown, and without damaging the young buds that are not yet through the surface. To do this the cutter should insert his knife straight down, close beside the bud to be cut, and then, when it is well down, he should give it a twist so as to bring the toothed edge into contact with the bud, which will be severed with a few saws of the knife. The careless but frequent habit of putting the knife in nearly at right angles to the bud should be checked as soon as perceived; its result is to damage several coming buds for every one cut.
"Grass" is fit to be cut for the English market when there is 2 in. of it purply green. If allowed to get too far out of ground it quickly loses girth at the top. There is a singular difference between the manner of cutting and eating Asparagus on the Continent and here. There, as soon as it is greened it is considered spoilt, and so the buds are cut before they come through. It is claimed that by this practice the whole of the bud is soft and eatable when cooked, and that a finer flavour is preserved. But nothing will drive the average Englishman from the belief that his "grass" should be green, at least it will not pay the market gardener to try it. The cost of cutting is about 2d. per 1000 stalks.
After cutting there are several different methods of dealing with the buds. Sometimes they are sorted into "Ware", "Middlings", "Crooks", and "Sprue", tied into "hands" of twenty-five with string or raffia, and then these hands are bound with rods into bundles of 100 or 125. Sometimes little sorting is done except to pick out "stickers" for the face, and the bundles of 100 or 125 are tied right away with rod or raffia. In either case, boxes are used to lay the buds in for tying or binding. The bundles are washed before sending away. In this process a brush is used, and care is taken to use it along and not across the buds, and so as not to move the rod. A bundle of Asparagus can soon be set loose by careless washing.
Fig. 457. - Asparagus Knife.
In hot summer weather it may be necessary to cut twice a day. A good, well-established bed of Asparagus will continue worth cutting from eight to ten years. A good plan two years before the time for throwing it up is to extend the time of cutting a week or ten days the first year, and fourteen to twenty days the next year, finally cutting as long as anything comes worth cutting. The price of Asparagus always goes up considerably as soon as the regular time for ceasing cutting comes. Many invalids and others are willing to pay a good price for it as long as they can get it.