Learn About Bamboo
Bamboo for Specific Uses
Bamboo shoots are crisp, tender, and have a mild, corn-like taste. They’re low in fat and high in fiber and potassium. The shoots of most temperate bamboos are edible, but some are naturally sweeter (and larger) than others, and therefore need less processing. Below is a list of bamboos particularly well suited for shoot production.
Bamboo shoots are best when cooked to remove trace amounts of cyanogens (as in cyanide) and other bitter compounds which make them hard to digest. In a very few cases the amount of cyanogens is potentially toxic if not cooked (for example Ph. heterocycla pubescens f. edulis “Moso”).
Shoots are harvested as they are just barely beginning to poke up out of the ground. Dig around the perimeter of the shoot with a sharp shovel to loosen, and pull/twist the shoot off of the rhizome. To prepare shoots, trim the tough outer layers off, and boil in an uncovered pot for 20 minutes. If they are still bitter, cook them longer.
As an aside, bamboo foliage is good fodder for some types of animals. We supplement our rabbit food with bamboo leaves, which they seem to love. Some farmers are feeding bamboo to their goats, sheep, cows and even llamas. The animals receive fodder and provide a useful service by eating the leaves and branches off poles which can then be used for numerous building projects or for market.
Temperate bamboos especially good for shoot production:
- Bambusa oldhamii
- Chimonobambusa quadrangularis
- Ph. atrovaginata
- Phyllostachys dulcis “Sweet Shoot”
- Many in the Phyllostachys genus are good to eat, including:
Ph. nigra “Henon”, praecox, platyglossa, propinqua, glauca, iridescens, nuda, rubromarginata, viridiglaucesens, and all forms of aureosulcata, heteroclada pubescens f. edulis “Moso”, nidularia, viridis and vivax
For more information on edible bamboo:
- Washington State Extension Service brochure (pdf), includes nutrition, preparation and storage information.
- Bamboo Farming USA has lots of information on farming bamboo for shoots, animal fodder and poles.
We also carry their excellent book in stock: Farming Bamboo by Daphne Lewis & Carol Miles