To take advantage of the fast and furious bamboo harvest season, we like to harvest all we can and dehydrate the shoots. These can be stored for about a year (or more) in a dry environment and to use, we just rehydrate what we need by soaking in water for about an hour or so.
To dehydrate bamboo shoots:
Here's the thing...the bamboo shoots you get in Chinese restaurants are gross. They're often the things you pick out onto your napkin, and honestly, there have been several occasions when the source of something funky can be atrributed to bamboo shoots.
What you see in the photo may as well be a completely different vegetable. There is simply no comparison between fresh bamboo shoots and what you get out of a can (which is what restaurants use). It's like comparing a fresh spring garden pea to a can of Green Giant, or sweet summer corn to a can of Del Monte. The difference might even be greater.
Here's my mom's bamboo shoots (and pork belly) cooked in a sweet soy sauce. The meat falls apart and makes your lips stick together and the sweet and savory sauce settles in the nooks of the shoots. I've captured the recipe in The Chinese Kitchen Garden book and I'll be referring to it this weekend!
Bamboo shoots emerge in a quick, short-lived, and intense flush every spring. Shoots harvested at this time are tender, sweet and mild. Here's a bucket full, freshly kicked down at ground level, about to be split in half and prepared for eating and preserving. If you click on the contact tab at the top of this website, you'll see a photo at the top of what the tender edible heart inside looks like when the shoot is split open (and you can contact me if you like!).
Keep in mind that bamboo shoots need to be boiled for about 45 minutes to an hour and then rinsed first before eating! This dispels toxins that can make you sick. Do not be afraid though. It's an easy process and seriously, there is no comparison between the shoots you get in a can and fresh shoots you've harvested yourself. There are a few other tips for foragers of bamboo in The Chinese Kitchen Garden book (as well as tips for growing and cooking bamboo).
In The Chinese Kitchen Garden, there is a recipe for a noodle dish featuring my favorite noodles - wide, flat, rice noodles. You can see how a finshed dish using these soft and chewy noodles looks in this post.
Unfortunately, I have never seen these noodles for sale anywhere except for in Asian supermarkets. They're often bagged like you see in the photo above, or on a styrofoam tray and wrapped in plastic. They're usually found in the refrigerated section, or if they're fresh and meant to be sold daily, they can be found unrefrigerated like the noodles above. As you see in the photo, they're usually sold in sheets that have to be cut to size, separated, and then stir-fried. It's easy and SO YUMMY.
The other day, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Jennifer Jewell of the Cultivating Place show on North State Public Radio. Here's a link to my segment. Catch Cultivating Place: Natural History and the Human Impulse to Garden (is that the most amazing name or what?), live every Thursday on NSPR.
Watercress is at its best this time of year. This slightly peppery leafy green happily grows in dappled sunlight in the stream that gently flows into my father's pond. The only thing we have to be careful of is that the ducks don't get it all before we do!
Besides eating it in salads, I love the combination of watercress and beef. It's a classic one and is seen in dum sum restaurants and stir fries. My father makes dumplings year round, filling them according to what's in season but my favorite variety is the beef and watercress.
Watercress is fairly easy to grow and if you are situated near a stream, it grows perennially, nearly trouble-free. Learn more about how to grow and use watercress in The Chinese Kitchen Garden, available now from your favorite bookseller!
I'm Wendy Kiang-Spray, gardener, home cook, and author of The Chinese Kitchen Garden. Learn more about the book here. Enjoy the blog and be sure to like The Chinese Kitchen Garden Facebook page for notifications when there are new posts.