Block of the Week: Grass

Never heard of it? You're DEFINITELY playing the game wrong

What's your favourite biome to set up home in? Perhaps you like building a treehouse in a jungle, or a tent beside a cool oasis in a desert, or maybe even a spooOOoooky cabin in a roofed forest. Me? I like the plains biome - it has the perfect combination of plentiful resources, long sight-lines to spot approaching creepers, room to expand and maximum availability of our Block of the Week - grass!

Grass is probably Minecraft's most iconic block (suck it, Mycelium!) Along with cobblestone, it was one of the first two blocks in the game. Originally the grassy top texture was used on all sides, but it wasn't long until the block was given a side texture too, showing the dirt below. Grass blocks have changed a surprising amount throughout Minecraft's history, and today they're one of the most feature-packed blocks around. Let's go through everything you can do with them.

First, you can use them to spread more grass - just put dirt next to a grass block, and the grass will grow across after a while. Second, they spawn passive mobs. Third, sheep can eat them to regrow their wool. Fourth, you can use bonemeal on them to grow tall grass and flowers. Fifth, you can create grass paths by right-clicking grass with a shovel. Sixth, you can hoe them into farmland. Seventh, they get covered by snow when it snows in-game. Eighth, you can pick up a grass block with a silk-touch shovel. Ninth, if you jump on a grass block enough times, a Creeper will whisper the true meaning of life into your left ear. Phew, what a lot of useful things! And only one of them was an outright lie!

You probably don't need me to tell you where to get grass from, because it spawns almost everywhere in the overworld. Most biomes will spawn at least a little grass when the map is first generated. But if you ever find yourself in a situation where you only have one grass block left (how the heck did you manage that?!), then guard it carefully. You can't craft more, only spread it to dirt blocks. And definitely don't cover it with another block or water, or the grass will die. You'll never be able to look a gardener in the eye again. And if you're married to a gardener, that could become a real problem.

Real-world grass is almost as abundant as Minecraft grass. Grasslands cover about 40 percent of the world's land surface (if you exclude Greenland and Antarctica) and - like in Minecraft - you can find grass everywhere from swamps, to forests, to tundra. The scientific name for grass is "poaceae", which refers to a whole family of grasses - including edible ones like maize, wheat, rice, barley, sugarcane, and oats.

Grasses are the most economically important family of plant in the world, as well as one that's had a huge influence on human society through history. We use them for food (for both us and our domesticated animals), drink (beer is made from types of grass), fuel (ethanol) and even building materials like bamboo, thatch and straw. In some parts of the world, people grow lawns in their gardens, while in others they grow them on their roofs. We've even made artificial grass for sports fields.

It's safe to say that without grass it'd be much harder to play Minecraft - there'd be no crops, no animals, and no flowers. Without real-world grass, though, we'd have life a lot harder - it would mean famine on a massive scale. So next time you romp through a field, thank the grass around you for everything it's done for us. But not aloud, or people will think you're a big weirdo. Unless, you are a big weirdo, of course. Then yell about the merits of grass as loudly as you can! But maybe not near us.