It's tricky to recommend that people grow bamboo. As you know, it can be a very real, very permanent, nuisance - to say the least.
My father however, lives on several acres with the motivation and time to tend to his large bamboo stand. We eat the shoots, fabricate (for fun, really) items like brooms and utensils from it, shred it for mulch, and have LOTS available for other garden uses like trellis-making. Here, I'm tying off the top of a bamboo trellis where a Chinese medicinal herb climbs.
(Refer back to posts from April 2017 to learn more about how we prepare bamboo shoots for eating, and how we preserve bamboo)
Preserving Bamboo Shoots
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!
Foraging for Bamboo Shoots
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).
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.