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Selecting & Preparing Land for Grove

Most bamboos thrive in tropical to warm temperate climates, where the minimum Summer temperature does not fall below 15 C. Some shelter from strong winds is desirable. Running bamboo is easily blown over in high winds because of its relatively shallow roots and luxuriant growth. Clumping bamboo is less susceptible, but cold winds kill the tips of branches and leaves of all bamboos. This delays the emergence of shoots so a forest or hill as a windbreak facing the prevailing wind is desirable.

Land should be well drained. Soil moisture is important both for growth and to transport plant food. Excessive moisture is harmful and if the soil easily yields drops of water when squeezed in the hand, it is too wet for rhizome growth and will cause rot.

Very flat land, with impermeable soils which lead to water ponding, will need drainage, either mole drains or slotted polythene pipe in trenches back-filled with pea gravel and coarse sand. Level land is desirable but a hillside will serve if the slope is not more than about 7 or 8; it should not be greater than 15. The land should slope toward the northeast, north or northwest. The hillside provides natural drainage, the slope allows the sun to warm the soil, hastening the decomposition of mulches and organic fertiliser and promoting the growth of shoots in Spring.

Bamboo can be grown in most types of soil provided they are not rocky. The ideal soil is either marly soil or a loam. A sandy loam is fairly satisfactory for bamboo growth, but clayey loam produces the best quality shoots. Remove weeds and cultivate to a depth of about 45 cm. Although the rhizomes of running bamboos may go as deep as 1 to 1.25 metres, these rhizomes produce no harvestable shoots so it is a waste of labour and expense to cultivate deeper. Clumping bamboos send their roots to about 1 metre, but shoot much closer to the surface. Ground on which other crops have been grown previously needs no special pre-treatment except cultivation. Soil acidity must be corrected before planting is started. An application of 300 kg to 400 kg of lime per acre will neutralise acid soil, make otherwise insoluble nutritive elements available and hasten the decomposition of organic matter.


Establishing & Managing a Plantation

The best time to establish a new plantation is just prior to the rainy season or the growing period (which may not coincide), usually during Spring or early Summer. In Australia this falls between the months of August and November. A rotational system for planting new groves should be established to allow for eventual loss of vigour of older clumps. Some plantation areas will be going out of production as new areas are brought in. Rotating the planting of new plants with clear-felling of exhausted clumps also allows time for replenishment of the soil.


Spacing and Mulching

For most species a spacing of from 6m to 8m between clump centres is usual. A plot with poorer soils should be planted at 8 metre centres and richer soils at 6 metre intervals. This spacing allows an annual harvest of both shoots and timber.

Bamboo clumps used for shoot production need access to more sunlight than those destined to be cut for timber. Soil warmth is necessary for shoot development, (but exposure to light will ruin the mild taste of emerging new shoots). Production of sweet good quality shoots thus requires either an annual top dressing with rich soil or applications of suitable mulch mounded around the bases of the clumps where the new shoots will emerge. The aim of this practise is to allow soil warming but to exclude sunlight as much as possible from the young shoots until they are selected for cutting.


Propagation

Establishing a plantation using large plants or even big divisions is very expensive. Smaller plantlets are needed. Sadly there is no sure-fire method of rapid propagation applicable to all the clumping bamboos. Most plantations are established using divisions of mature clumps. Some research work is proceeding on tissue culturing bamboos, but results are a little inconclusive except from some laboratories in India. These institutions seem to have established a reliable method of producing bamboo plants from callous tissue derived from seeds or immature plantlets, but the procedure has only recently been applied to bamboo in Australia. Micro-propagation techniques using emerging branchlets from mature culms might prove the most successful and cheapest method to establish a plantation, but this technique too needs more research.

Current methods of vegetative propagation:

There are several methods of obtaining vegetative propagules. They depend on access to mature plants of the desired species from which various kinds of cuttings may be taken. These develop into new plants using the food reserves conserved in the parent material. Not all bamboos respond to these propagation methods. They seem to work best with thick-walled Bambusa and Dendrocalamus species and require high humidity and soil warmth for greatest success.

Layering whole culms:

Bend outer culms of a clump downwards after undercutting at the base and bury the culm in the soil after cutting off all but the main branches. After a few weeks, if soil temperatures are sufficiently high and moisture levels maintained, roots and shoots develop at the buried nodes. Saw off the culm sections bearing new plants and transplant these directly into the desired plantation area.

Whole culm cuttings:

Whole 18 month old culms may be severed from adult clumps and planted in a shallow trench. Leave the top of the culm and a few branches intact and allow them to protrude above the ground. After some weeks, new roots and shoots develop at the nodes. Cut these from the parent culm and transplant them directly into the plantation site.

Double-node cuttings:

Make cuttings of culms with at least two internodes left intact. Trim branches from lower node. Plant prepared cuttings vertically in warm soil with the top of the culm and the branches left protruding. If using potting bags or pots, cover each with a clear or lightly frosted plastic bag tied in place after watering and leave in part shade until new roots protrude from drain holes. New roots and shoots are produced at the lower node. Single node cuttings planted on their side with the branch complement upwards will work with some species.

Branch cuttings:

Propagation using branch cuttings has proved successful in some cases. In Bangladesh, Melocanna bacciffera has been successfully propagated in this way. Cut the whole complement of side branches from a culm using a sharp hacksaw and plant in warm soil. Maintain atmospheric humidity using the system described for double node cuttings. New roots appear at the base of side branches within a few months.

Obtaining new plants using these methods can take up to one year. A few more years of growth are necessary before young plants are strong enough to produce new shoots suitable for cutting as vegetables.


Growing Bamboo

Compared to the cost of growing other vegetables or fruit, bamboo growing is relatively inexpensive. During the first two or three years of growth while the plantation is maturing and culms and shoots are too small to sell, growers can raise other crops in the grove to recover the starting capital. In Japan, where establishment costs may be less than Australia, farmers are able to recover their initial monetary investment after 8 or 9 years. In contrast to timber crops, no clearfelling is required to realise a profit after this time and the plantation continues.

Unlike most other agricultural crops, bamboos have been developed with little artificial selection. This means that, like most other grasses, bamboos are fairly resistant to diseases, insects, and climatic injuries. Consequently, growing bamboo for either timber or shoots (or both) requires much less labour than growing vegetables or fruit. Although it is desirable to have a large grove, many small scale growers can be successful, and reasonable profits can be made by saving the expense of hired labour.


Planting:

It is important that:

  1. roots do not dry out in transit; drying may be avoided by placing them in the shade or covering them with straw or mats;
  2. shaking does not injure the attachment between rhizome and culm;
  3. the rhizome buds are not injured; and
  4. the ball of earth remains unbroken.

Spacing:

The proper number of plants is about 400 per hectare. If the plants are planted in a grid, the spacing between them is about 5 metres.

Depth:

Replant at the same ground line as before. The part formerly above ground is usually green while the underground part is yellow. Place new plants so that the rhizomes run at right angles to the slope and are horizontal. This is the normal way that rhizomes grow.

Fertilizer:

Fertilizer is important during transplanting to increase the vigour of the rhizomes. It can be placed in the hole near the rhizomes. A shovel-full of well rotted stable manure, a handful of chemical fertilizer will give new plants a good start. After this initial treatment, follow the fertilizing guide given for clumping species in the previous section.

Back Filling:

Back fill the planting hole with top soil using a stick to push soil into any spaces left around the rhizomes. Next, step lightly on the ground around the culms. Sometimes water is applied to settle the soil around the rhizomes, but this may not be necessary with a plant which has the original soil bound by its roots.

Bamboo that have been stored for a long time after digging, plants whose roots have begun to dry out, those which have a small root ball or that are transplanted in a dry season should be planted into very wet soil. Fill the bottom of the hole with water, add soil and stir to make mud. Place the bamboo plant in the hole and add more water until the hole is filled. Top up the soil leaving a shallow pan to accept water.

Mulching:

All transplanted bamboos should be mulched with 15 to 20 cm depth of hay or straw to a diameter of about 2 metres. Spread soil on top of the hay or straw, covering it. This protects the ground from drying, controls soil temperature and checks the growth of weeds.


Increasing the Grove Area by Extension of the Rhizomes:

Bamboo rhizomes spread into well-watered and fertile or loamy soil. This characteristic can be used to expand the grove into adjacent plots.

Excavate to 45 cm depth in a belt about 60 cm wide next to the side of the plot which is selected for expansion of the grove. Place compost or stable manure in the trench. Refill with soil and cover with a mulch of hay or straw about 20 cm deep. Instead of using mulch it is possible to grow cover crops of lupins or vetches. The rhizomes spread about 2 m a year. Whether or not shoots have emerged on a prepared area, keep on preparing successive adjacent belts each year immediately after the emergence of the shoots. Needless to say, only well nourished bamboos will extend their rhizomes rapidly, so it is quite important to properly fertilize the grove.


Grove Management:

After about 7 years an equilibrium is reached where the number of new culms left each year equals the number harvested. For example, suppose there are 120 culms in a grove, and culms are harvested when they are six years old. There will be 20 culms of each age from one to six years old. In Spring, 20 of the new shoots are allowed to grow into new culms. In Autumn the 20 six year old culms are harvested and the garden is back to its original 120 culms.

A highly fertilised grove produces large culms with many branches and leaves. Because of the widely spaced culms wind damage to the rhizomes at the base of the culms is likely. To avoid this damage the culms should be topped. Topping also allows more sunshine to reach the ground promoting early shoot emergence.

The best time to top is just after the lowest 2 or 3 branching nodes have extended their branches and the upper branches are still enclosed in the sheaths. Count 12 nodes up from the lowest branches, and cut off the culm above it. Always cut the culm cleanly. Breaking it will cause ragged splits and provide entry points for disease.


Cropping Culms to Thin:

As tropical bamboo species usually have a short rhizome neck structure they form clumps composed of close growing culms. Unless correctly managed by thinning regularly, clumps become so dense and congested that harvest of shoots and poles becomes almost impossible. Systematic and regular cutting can actually increase yields and leads to greater convenience in harvesting. Excessive cutting reduces yields and the clump is more susceptible to wind damage during storms.

When clumps mature and spread outwards, a modified 'keyhole' system for culling shoots and culms will allow greater access to the clump. Poles can be cut from the older and more mature inner part of the clump while shoots are harvested from the outer fringe. Rhizomes in the central portion of the clump contribute to the vigour of the whole clump. It is therefore inadvisable to completely remove this part for propagules without giving the plant an opportunity to establish new culms on the outer rim over a couple of growing seasons.


Shoot Production:

Culms emerge from the soil at their full mature diameter, shedding the cardboard-like sheaths as they elongate. Culm sheaths can be densely hairy,with two prominent "ears" and a distinctively shaped leaf at the apex. Culms are more or less cylindrical. The surface of the culm is smooth, usually green, and is often covered to some extent by either fine hairs or a waxy bloom. Generally, culms are stout with relatively thick or even solid walls. Nodes are ring-like and support a distinct pattern of branches which is more or less consistent within a genus. Branching begins directly above each culm node and proceeds alternately on opposite sides of the culm. Branches in turn may support a number of smaller branchlets. Usually about ten or more lanceolate or narrow-lanceolate leaves emerge at the ends of the branchlets. Leaves vary greatly in size, some being quite large and useful as wrapping materials for small bundles of cooked rice or other foods.

Suitable Species:

Among the tropical bamboos grown for shoots are: Edible Bamboo, Bambusa edulis, grown in Taiwan and used for shoot production but also building and paper pulp. Beechy Bamboo, Bambusa beecheyana is eaten in southern China, but the shoots must be boiled in two changes of water. Burmese Bamboo, Bambusa burmanica, shoots are eaten in Thailand.

Spiny Bamboo, Bambusa spinosa is used in the Philippines. Research on the nutritive value of this bamboo revealed that it had the highest levels of calcium, protein and phosphorus of the group of bamboos tested. Common Bamboo, B. vulgaris, which is not actually so common in Australia and its ornamental relative B. vulgaris Vittata, [Syn B. striata], also produce edible shoots, but these are said by some to be inedible because of bitterness. Giant Hedge Bamboo, B. bambos, [Syn. B. arundinacea] is a large and thorny species which forms useful impenetrable hedges. It has edible shoots which are pickled in Thailand. Asper Bamboo, Dendrocalamus asper, is one of the most favoured bamboos grown for shoots (and export) in Thailand. Bambusa blumeana is a bamboo which dislikes its roots being disturbed when young, but in India and Indonesia it is used as a building material, in basketry and its shoots are processed for eating.

Many other species including: Bambusa longispiculata, B. nutans, Dendrocalamus asper, D. latiflorus, D. giganteus (sweet enough to be eaten raw), D. merrilliana, D. membranaceus, D. strictus, Gigantochloa albociliata G. atter, G. robusta, G. levis, and Thyrsostachys siamensis produce edible shoots.


Running Species Shoot Production:

Suitable Species:

There are many temperate running varieties which are suitable for shoot production. "Moso" as it is known in China and Japan, with several more or less synonymous Latin names (Phyllostachys heterocycla, P. pubescens and P. edulis) is the most commonly grown species for shoot production mainly because of the size of the shoots and consequent savings in labour that this characteristic gives per kilogram weight of harvested shoot. Other species with edible shoots include P. congesta, P. dulcis, P. elegans, P. nidularia, P. platyglossa, P. praecox and P. viridis. Square Bamboo, Chimonobambusa tetragonocalamus and a number of Pleioblastus and Sasa species also produce edible shoots, although the shoots from some of these are very slender.

Selection of Stock Plants:

Establishing a large plantation using nursery-grown potted plants could prove expensive. Although seedlings of some species are available occasionally the supply is erratic. Most plantations are established using small stock plants or divisions.

Rhizome cuttings:

Sections of vigorous rhizome about 30 cm long, taken from just behind the growing area can be either planted in nursery beds or directly into the plantation area parallel to the contour and watered in. These will produce new shoots from the viable buds and new rhizome in the next season. The ideal stock plant has one leafy culm with an attached rhizome fully capable of producing shoots. Select plants between 18 months and 2 years old. Plants over four years old are hopeless as stock plants as the buds on the rhizome will not shoot. It is not the growth of new culms above ground but the spreading of rhizomes underground that is the important consideration in the development of a strong and luxuriant grove. The most convenient size are those whose culms are between 2 and 4 cm in diameter.

Short culms are better than tall ones because they are less likely to be damaged by wind and require no support stakes, which saves labour and expense. Use young sun-hardy and vigorous culms having many branches.

Those with cracks or other injury at the junction of the culm and rhizome are worthless. Stock rhizomes should have at least five buds, for without buds shoots cannot grow. It is impossible to determine the presence of buds without digging into the ground; however, it is safe to assume that culms in their third year have live buds on their rhizomes.

Weeds:

Bamboo shoot gardens receive more sun than timber yielding groves because of the relatively wide separation of the culms. Sunlight encourages the growth of weeds which consume nutrients intended for the bamboo, shade the ground, lower soil temperature and thus retard shoot emergence.Weed using a hoe to scrape the ground surface except during the time just before shoots emerge; weeds should then be pulled up by hand. Weeds may also be controlled by growing another crop between the bamboos when the garden is new, but this should be discontinued once the garden is three years old.

Fertilizer:

Bamboo is a heavy feeder so even rich soil becomes depleted after a few years if no fertilizer is added. Although fertilizer may be applied at any time of year, it is usually done after shoot harvest and again in late Summer just before mulching. Since the rhizomes are continuously active except in the coldest part of the year, it is better to apply small amounts of fertilizer several times during the year rather than a large amount all at once.

Bamboo appreciates nitrogen and potassium which are found in compost, stable manure, green manure, and wood ashes as well as in the chemical regime suggested earlier. Lime is often used both as a fertiliser and as a neutraliser for acid soil. Hay, compost, green manure and straw can simply be spread on the ground. Stable manure, ash, calcium phosphate, potassium chloride, and similar materials should be buried in small pits to avoid being washed away by rain.

Mulching:

Mulching the shoot plantation with hay, straw or composted bagasse is most important. Depending on its composition, mulch furnishes various nutrients, checks weed growth and improves soil condition. Mulch protects the shallow growing rhizomes both from Winter cold and Summer drought. Mulch should be spread during September in cool climates or during October in warm ones.

Early Treatment of Plants:

Plants showing poor growth and slow development should be removed. For the first 2 or 3 years most new shoots are allowed to grow into culms. Only those that grow poorly or are too close to others are removed. Sometimes bamboo rhizomes produce slender stems that grow from old rhizomes. These should be pruned off since they take up nutrition that would otherwise go to good shoots. After five years a young grove on rich soil should have about 2000 mother culms per hectare. In this year the increase by selection of new mother culms is complete. Remove about 500 of the weakest culms per hectare. The spacing of the mother culms is important. Sometimes healthy culms must be removed if they are too crowded. In year six the original, oldest culms are removed. The remaining culms are thinned to obtain uniform spacing and density of 2000 culms per hectare. The proper spacing of mother culms depends on the soil. A rich soil allows wider spacing than poor soil. Climate is also a factor. Between 1500 and 2000 mother plants per hectare is desirable, fewer for rich soil and more for poor soil.

This density is maintained for the life of the plantation. Higher density produces too many overcrowded rhizomes which reduces shoot quality. Culms are cut after they reach 7 years so that only about 500 shoots per hectare are allowed to grow into new culms each year. It is best to select these shoots from those that sprout early in the mid season of shoot production. Each must be carefully marked with the year of its emergence so that there will be no uncertainty at cutting time.

Characteristics of Running Species:

Culms arise from long underground rhizomes. These spread in sinuous courses about 30 cm deep reaching maximum depths of 1 to 1.25 m. New shoots begin to emerge in September, with peak production normally in October. Culm sheaths are papery in texture and can be densely hairy and spotted. They bear bristles at the apex. Sheath blades are usually long and slender. The sheaths gradually fall as the culms grow. Culms are more or less cylindrical in their lower section but in the upper parts each internode has a broad groove on the side from which the branches emerge. The surface of the culm is smooth, green, yellowish green or yellow, and the internodes are relatively short. Nodes are ring-like. When young, culms are often covered with fine hairs and beneath each node is a band of white waxy powder. Generally, culms are stout with relatively thick walls. Usually two, but sometimes one or three, semi-cylindrical branches having prominent nodes occur directly above each upper culm node and grow alternately on opposite sides of the culm. Two to 8 lanceolate or narrow-lanceolate leaves emerge at the ends of the branchlets.


Shoot Yields:

The annual yield of a bamboo clump depends on the number of new culms produced each year. This in turn is related to the production of young leaves. Culms become mature after two or three years. Prior to this stage, young culms contribute greatly to the health of the clump through photosynthesis in their new leaves. The foods they synthesize are partly consumed by leaves but the greater proportion is transported to the rhizomes. Here it is stored as energy which is converted into next year's growth of new shoots. If all the potential young culms (shoots) are cut from a clump through several annual cycles, the clump loses vigour as the rootstock becomes depleted of nutrients. This is why to maximise shoot output some shoots must be left each year to develop into leafy young culms. Large yields are produced in alternate years and so it advantageous for the intending farmer to have plantations of varying ages if a consistent supply of fresh shoots is required. Clearly it is a marketing advantage to have a number of plantations producing in sequence.

Fallen bamboo leaves mulch the soil surface. This layer of litter, along with the leaves still attached to the plant, protect soils from erosion during storms. Growers must realise that this covering can also prevent penetration of chemical fertilizers and water into the root area around the clump. Set up a regular schedule of checking the soil surface around each clump by raking away a portion of the leaf litter and mulch to ensure the correct levels of soil moisture are being maintained. Where water repellent and "waxy' soils occur it may be necessary to apply soluble fertilizers along with a wetting agent. This procedure will ensure that the root mass receives the benefit of watering and fertilizer application and that these nutrients do not simply run away from the clump.


Fertilizing:

Manuring or fertilizing should be undertaken regularly. Little and often is more productive than occasional heavy fertilization. Fertilizers are used to promote the artificial regeneration of the bamboo especially when clumps are used for shoot production. The main nutrients needed include nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. These should be applied at least one month prior to the shoot production period.

Fertilizer regime which may be used as a guide when establishing a plantation is as follows:


Diseases of Emerging Clums:

Bamboos, a major non-timber woody resource, occupy about 10.3 million hectares of forest lands in India. Of the 128 species of bamboos occurring in the country, only a certain bamboo species such as Bambusa bambos, B. nutans, Dendrocalamus strictus, D. hamiltonii have been planted on a large-scale in many States. Improper management, unscientific harvesting and over-exploitation have resulted in depletion of the bamboo resources in many areas. Apart from biotic interference, various diseases affecting the culms have also dwindled the stand productivity.

In natural stands and plantations, bamboo culms are affected with various diseases at their different growth phases which result in partial to complete failure in culm production. Rot of emerging and growing culms respectively caused by Fusarium moniliforme var. intermedium and F. equiseti, culm blight by Sarocladium oryzae, witches' broom by Balansia linearis and little leaf by mycoplasma-like organisms are the potential culm diseases recorded on bamboos.

Rot of emerging culms caused by F. moniliforme is the most widespread and economically important disease which affects about 23 species of bamboos in Kerala State. Among these, B. bambos, D. strictus, D. longispathus are the severely affected species. Very high incidence and mortality were recorded in emerging culms of 15 to 30 cm height; disease incidence varied from 14.5 to 33.7% in natural stands, while it ranged from 5.5 to 25.5% in plantations during 198791.


Rust Fungus:

Green bamboo (Bambusa oldhami Munro) and Ma bamboo (Dendrocalamus latiflorus Munro), cultured over an area from low elevation to 500 m in Nan-Tou, Yun-Lin, Chiayi, Tainan, Kaohsiung, and Pingtong counties in Taiwan, are important economic bamboo species for producing good quality bamboo shoot and pulp materials. However, the rust fungus, Dasturella divina, has spread over bamboo plantations, and caused serious damage to bamboo leaves. In this study, rust distribution was surveyed. Its morphology was observed with scanning electron microscope. Energy-dispersive X-ray microanalysis was applied to detect the element distribution in tissues of bamboo leaves. The rate of photosynthesis was measured with portable photosynthesis system.

The results revealed that in summer and fall lots of uredinia appear on lower leaf surface, and subsequently produce plenty of urediniospores. The rust is distributed throughout the island. Results from X-ray microanalysis showed that content of silicon and potassium was respectively higher and lower in tissues of diseased leaves in comparison to healthy ones. In November and December 1994, the average photosynthesis rates of healthy leaves of green bamboo and Ma bamboo were 18.35 mmole CO2 m2 s1, and 19.61 mole CO2 m2 s1 respectively. However, in November and December 1994, the average photosynthesis rates of diseased leaves of green bamboo and Ma bamboo were 2.60 mole CO2 m2 s1, and 1.94 mole CO2 m2 s1 respectively.

These results demonstrated that Dasturella divina destroyed tissues of bamboo leaves, changed the distribution of elements in leaf tissues, and thus seriously decreased the rates of photosynthesis.


Pests Affecting Bamboo:

Leaf-biting and sucking insects including aphis cause minor damage to ornamental bamboos and may be a problem in shoot plantations especially when bamboos are small. Adult plants do not seem overly bothered by such pests. Systemic insecticides and predatory species offer a measure of control. Scale insects can be troublesome to some plants. They usually haunt culms and branches sheltered by adhering culm or leaf sheaths.


Shoot Harvesting:

Shoots of clumping bamboos grow vigorously beneath the soil surface, finally breaking through into the light. At this stage they often pause in their growth. The reason for this is not known. However, exposure to sunlight causes the production of chemicals that are bitter and hastens shoot elongation by stimulating the development of a very woody base. Consequently, shoots should be dug when the tips are just emerging from the surface of the soil or very soon after that stage. A tell-tale bulge or cracks in the soil usually reveal the new shoot's location.

As new shoots arise from rhizomes which more-or-less radiate outwards from the clump they can be harvested without wholesale disturbance of the surrounding soil. Digging should proceed with care so that shoots are not bruised. Remove the soil from around the base of the emerging shoot, exposing the lower part of the rhizome neck. Carefully sever the last third of the shoot with a narrow hoe, machete or sharpened narrow-bladed spade. Slope the cut away from the narrow woody neck that connects the new culm with an older one. If the necks remaining in the soil have viable buds, some will produce a shoot in following seasons.


Preparing shoots for use as a Vegetable:

A shoot that is fairly stout, light yellow or light brown, purple on the root buds, and white at the basal cut will be tender, fragrant, and tasty. On the other hand, a slender shoot with purple black skin, reddish root buds, and a dark coloured cut base will be tough and have little fragrance. Shoots that have grown above ground are very poor in quality. Preparing shoots for the table Shoots of certain types of bamboo contain amounts of cyanogens and may be toxic to cattle, but cooking destroys these substances and renders the shoots edible and even tasty. Boil freshly cut shoots in one or two changes of plain or lightly salted water before peeling with a sharp knife. Boiling (or steaming) softens the culm leaves covering the shoots and makes them easier to peel. This pre-processing step should not be undertaken if the shoots are to be marketed fresh, as their keeping capacity is lowered drastically after cooking. It is usual to remove all the sheaths, but leave the tender ones near the tip if they are not too hairy. Cut off the woody basal section of the shoot and remove any discoloured parts. These indicate aged and bitter portions. Slice the shoot lengthwise into thin slices four or five millimetres thick, and carve the upper tender parts into decorative shapes if desired.

Prepared bamboo shoots form a useful ingredient in many ordinary dishes either with or without meat. After boiling for about 20 minutes and being drained they can also be served alone with butter melted over them. Add salt near the end of cooking. Use only the most tender parts of non-acrid shoots as a fresh salad ingredient.


How do you prepare bamboo to eat?

Suggestion A: In the spring, depending of the region, but in Japan usually April, bamboos start pushing the ground. As soon as you see the tip break the surface of the ground, you need to dig bamboo out from the ground. The variety called "Moso" is the best but any variety which has a large trunk diameter is good. Peal the skins off and boil it in white water (which you obtain when you polish rice) to take off the bitterness. The powder produced when a rice producer grinds rice is best, but this may be difficult to find in the U.S. In Japan, you can buy that powder in any supermarket. Then cook it with tuna and soy sauce, or with seaweed and soy sauce. You can cook Chinese dishes, like sweet and sour pork, with it too. If it's very fresh, you can just dip it in soy sauce and eat it. The canned bamboo is edible, but there is no aroma. It's just not the same as fresh.

The skin can be used for many things. In Japan, it is used for wrapping the meat at the meat market, or to wrap rice for lunch. Also, it can be used as a sheet spread under fish, when cooking the fish with very small amount of sauce, so the fish would not stick to the bottom of the pan. The soft tip part can be used to wrap around a pickled plum, which is then sucked. This is mostly children's snack.


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This page was last updated on January 23, 2006