Next up in the “uses for bamboo” category is eating it. What you see here is one of three varieties of Phyllostachys I planted a few years ago. During a two or three week period in May I can harvest young shoots for food.
Tips on Harvesting Bamboo Shoots
- Select tips up to about a foot tall. This may vary depending on the species, though. In any event, you’re looking for shoots that have not yet started to harden.
- Dig down deep — the fattest, crunchiest parts are underground.
- A shovel is probably easiest. Just push the spade right through the underground stem. It’s much less work than digging it out with a stick like I did in the video, which I demonstrated only to show what to do if your only tool is a knife.
- Don’t eat it raw. I have food allergies so I thought it was just me, but I’ve discovered that most people don’t react well to raw bamboo.
- Don’t store it raw. The shoots will start to harden within only a day or so; you need to cook it right away.
How to Cook Bamboo
Bamboo is most commonly boiled, but in austere conditions you might find it easier to roast it over an open fire, as I demonstrated in the video. Just burn a fire down to a bed of coals and lay the shoots directly on them, still encased in their leaves. The shoots sort of steam in their own juices this way, and I found they were thoroughly done when the leaves had charred to black. There is more waste than when boiling, but I prefer the smoky taste, and they get sweeter.
Boiled bamboo is more bland, but if you can use it as an ingredient, you can make a tasty meal out of it. This recipe is simple and delicious:
- 3 cups boiled and sliced bamboo shoots
- 1 lb chicken or pork
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 1 cup water
- salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and soy sauce to taste
Directions: Cook as much rice as you want in a covered pot. Heat a wok or skillet on high heat. Add oil and sliced meat and stir fry until browned. Add garlic, ginger, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper, and cook until meat is done. Stir corn starch into water, then add to skillet and boil until it thickens. Add more water if you prefer thinner sauce. Add soy sauce to taste and adjust seasoning. Serve with rice.
Bamboo is such a useful material that I recommend planting a grove on your land. But before you do, think about whether you’ll need to contain it, because the roots will crack asphalt, and the shoots will come right up through it. You’ll need to stop the roots with concrete, or it will spread everywhere.
The rest of the bamboo series: