Thursday, May 12, 2016

How to cook and prepare bamboo shoots, and why they are so good (and good for you)

When we used to grow bamboo on our land for our bamboo nursery, we found that many people had a prejudice against this plant because they realized that it spreads aggressively. It's true. It does spread and is hard to contain. In short, bamboo (which is considered a type of grass) is a pain in the butt.  My husband calls it "bad ass grass".

But it's a beautiful plant, makes an awesome evergreen hedge and instant sight barrier, and - tadaaaaaa - you can eat the bamboo shoots!

Eventually, the economy tanked, and with it, our bamboo nursery business. Who wants to buy bamboo when one can't pay the mortgage on one's house?

So we were left with hundreds of potted bamboo plants and no buyers. We planted a bunch on our property and now are the proud (or not so proud) owners of aggressively spreading bamboos. This leaves us with plenty of bamboo shoots exploding out of the yard in spring. It's a good thing our family loves the taste of bamboo shoots. We will never, ever run out of them. Ever.

Sauteed bamboo shoots aren't only tasty, but also healthy for you: rich in vitamin B, phosphorus, fiber, and fat-free, they are a great addition to any meal.

Keep in mind that there are more than 200 varieties of bamboo, and not all of them are edible. Some are way too bitter to eat. The bitterness comes from hydrocyanic acid (which is also present in almonds, lima beans, and sweet potatoes, so don't get freaked out about the scary name). Blanching or boiling gets rid of the acid, and many people boil the shoots just in case and taste a little bite every five minutes to see if the bitterness has gone away.

The Phyllostachys genus is the most commonly grown in North America and harvested for eating, and that's what we grow on our land.

Here's how we harvest and prepare bamboo shoots:

We harvest shoots in the spring, when they are about the height of a mature ear of corn (or smaller).  If they get taller than that, they are too fibrous.  Don't tarry: a bamboo shooting is like a plant explosion.  The record is 4 feet of growth in 24 hours!!!

Make sure you harvest the shoots, not the ducks (although they would probably taste good, too.  Ahem).  

Cut the shoots at the base with a sharp knife.

Before cooking, you have to peel the brownish-reddish husk (also called culm sheaths.  See?  I'm married to a bamboo dork who knows the right terms).  Just keep peeling and unwrapping the layers until you reach the pale, edible core.  

When you get to the middle, you will see: they look pretty magical.

Now cut the shoots in half lengthwise.  Look at that!
The size you cut them depends on how you want to serve them.  Chunks?  Slices?  Go for it!

Then sautee them with whatever you want to sautee them with.  We use some coconut oil, soy sauce, and minced garlic.  We don't have to boil our shoots because we have a very palatable kind.  Remember: if they're bitter, boil the shoots first in water for 5 to 20 minutes (or until they don't taste bitter anymore).

Bamboo shoots have a delightful crunchy texture and take on the flavors of what you cook them with.  Bring on the garlic, baby!

You can also make bamboo shoot pickles by sticking them in vinegar with some herbs and garlic.

Just eat it.  Remember, the best way to control and contain bamboo is to eat it!


  1. Great idea. If we ever plant any bamboo I'll keep this in mind.

  2. Mmmmm, bamboo shoots and garlic - that sounds yummy!

    1. It IS yummy, although anything with garlic tastes great, doesn't it?

  3. Sounds and looks great. Yummy ��

  4. I replied yesterday but never received any information. Lol 😁

    1. What information would you like? I didn't see a question!

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. hello there
    I am new here & very thankful for your website! would you please post what type of edible bamboo you grow and any other bamboo favorites of yours? I would like to give them a try


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