While the bamboo is generally considered to be a tree, in reality, this botanical species is a variety of evergreen grass that grows perennially. The bamboo plant becomes wooded when it matures, but the young shoots of this vegetation are edible. Typically, the mature bamboo stalks have green internodes that are ribbed with cream-hued, brown-spotted coverings and dangling leaves with grow up to 8 inches in length and about three-fourth inches in width. The fresh bamboo shoots have a pale yellow or brown color, while the root end of the plant is purplish and the stalk end white. When cooked, the young bamboo shoots are crunchy, aromatic and have a mild flavour.
There are several dozens of bamboo varieties, which can be grouped in different ways. In fact, the entire bamboo varieties can be grouped into two - bamboo that grows wildly (mainly, the invasive variety) and those that have an inclination to form thickets. In addition, bamboo may also be classified into another three groups - bamboo that are cold-enduring (hardy) and the tropical as well as sub-tropical types. In each of the categories mentioned here, the multitude of bamboo species may again be categorized according to their size on maturity (giant, huge, average and dwarf). In the United States, all the bamboo that grows belongs to the cool-hardy group or Phyllostachys species.
Bamboo is indigenous to China, India, Japan, South-East Asia, Africa, South America and some regions of Mexico. While the young shoots of bamboo have been a vital vegetable in the diets of Asians for several thousand years now, major portion of the bamboo grown in the Asian region are used up locally and only a small part of it is processed for export. Even to this day, bamboo is a rare vegetable in the Western nations and is mainly used in delicacies prepared in the Oriental plate. Nevertheless, gradually people in Europe as well as the United States are beginning to develop bamboo as a crop.
Bamboo propagates by giving out new rhizomes - underground, straight stems, which give rise to new shoots. The continuous emergence of new shoots and leaves enables this plant to maintain its evergreen look. The nutrients prepared by the bamboo leaves are amassed in the rhizomes and subsequently transformed into the new growth in the following year. Since large crops of bamboo happen every second or alternate year, people cultivating this crop generally maintain plants of different ages. In order to sustain the white color of the shoots, occasionally the soil is heaped against the new growth areas as this helps in averting them from developing chlorophyll.
Countries that usually export bamboo shoots possibly will harvest cultivated bamboo plantations or indigenous bamboo forests. However, it is unfortunate that absence of any rules has led to unwarranted harvesting of the plants and this has resulted in diminished plants in a number of indigenous bamboo forests. On the contrary, as many durable/ tough bamboo species are spread wildly, home gardeners in the United States who desire to grow bamboo need to build a barrier wall underground with a view to prevent the uncontrolled spread of the plant.
Bamboo shoots possess a number of nutritional values and cooked shoots of bamboo are a good natural resource of potassium.
The tender most bamboo shoots are usually just about six inches or even less in height. Freshly obtained bamboo shoots need to be stored in cold water for no longer than two days or tightly covered in plastic and stored in the refrigerator for a maximum period of one week. In addition, the fresh bamboo shoots may also be blanched and frozen for a period of one year. It is advisable that you boil the fresh bamboo shoots in one or two changes of plain or somewhat saline water until they become soft and subsequently remove their husk and cut them into slices along their length. If you are using frozen or canned bamboo shoots, you ought to clean them in water, heat them and subsequently serve them as they are or stir fry them with other vegetables and meat. The tender parts of the bamboo shoots may also be sliced and used in salads.
Findings of several studies have revealed that bamboo shoots are also helpful in lowering bad cholesterol in the bloodstream, thereby helping in the combat against heart ailments. In addition, since bamboo contains high levels of potassium, it also facilitates in controlling blood pressure and has the aptitude to bring about a stabilizing effect on blood pressure provided it is taken along with other foods rich in potassium content. Amazingly, more than anything else, bamboo also possesses the attribute to act as a deterrent against cancer since it has elevated antioxidant properties.
The antioxidant properties of bamboo not only assist in enhancing the immune system of the body, but the shoots of the plant are anti-inflammatory, which further facilitates in diminishing the risks for specific types of dangerous diseases. Finally, the young bamboo shoots have been used by people as a herbal medication for providing relief from convulsions in the gallbladder.
Over the years, people have become completely conscious regarding the health benefits offered by the bamboo shoots and, hence, it can easily be added to your diet, particularly considering the fact that they are also very delectable. When you buy fresh bamboo shoots, get rid of their external layer till you see the soft parts of the shoots. These shoots need to be cooked for some time to get rid of the hydrocyanic acids enclosed by them. Hence, boil the tender parts of the fresh bamboo shoots for about 20 minutes and then consume them. You also need to rinse the tender shoots after boiling so that they are completely fit for consumption.
Young and tender bamboo shoots may be consumed in a number of ways - they may be added to salads, stir fried and also used in soups. Nevertheless, in case you wish to preserve the nourishing properties of bamboo shoots, they ought to be the last element that you include in your salad or stir fry. Remember, over cooking the shoots will rob them of many of the nutritious properties and the health benefits they offer. When you buy canned bamboo shoots, first remove the shoots from the can and store them in a bowl containing fresh water and place it in the refrigerator. Subsequently, keep changing the water every day with a view to maintain the freshness of the shoots for a period of about two weeks.
Several researches have revealed that bamboo encloses an excellent amount of nourishing substances. Chemical analysis of bamboo has shown that it encloses 88.8 per cent moisture, 4 per cent protein, 1.1 per cent minerals, 0.5 per cent carbohydrates and a few per cent of calcium. In addition, bamboo is an excellent natural resource of vitamin C. At the same time, the leaves of the bamboo plant are known to be the richest natural resource of hydrocyanic acid and benzoic acid. Moreover, the tender bamboo shoots enclose several enzymes, including amylase, deamidase and proteolytic enzymes as well as amygdalin. All these nutrients are extremely helpful in curing a variety of maladies.
It may be noted that the leaves of the bamboo plant are fragrant, stimulant and energizer. The bamboo leaves are known to be useful in fighting menstrual problems as well as stopping bleeding. Since the ancient times, bamboo leaves are believed to be aphrodisiac or helpful in increasing libido. Bamboo leaves possess numerous therapeutic properties and, hence, are used to cure several ailments. Some of the condition specific uses of bamboo leaves are discussed below.
Tender bamboo shoots are used for treating respiratory disorders. The best way to use bamboo shoots for this medicinal purpose is to take a combination of bamboo shoot juice extract and a tablespoonful of honey. Consuming this mixture on a regular basis will help to alleviate respiratory problems. Poor eating habits result in stomach problems and this may often cause people to suffer from intestinal worms. However, consuming a decoction prepared from bamboo shoots helps to eliminate the intestinal worms that cause stomach disorders.
In addition, the juice extracted from bamboo leaves might help in regulating menstrual cycles. Consumption of this juice may also be beneficial for women who endure irregular menstruation period. The juice extracted from bamboo leaves also provides relief from the profuse bleeding experienced by many women during their menstrual period. Menstruation problems may also be alleviated by drinking a decoction prepared with the bamboo nodes.
Apart from the health benefits of bamboo leaf mentioned above, the leaves of this plant are also useful in treating stomach problems. It has been established that bamboo leaves are helpful in reinforcing the muscles of the stomach. Bamboo shoots may be consumed either cooked or in pickle form and consuming them helps to alleviate stomach problems. In effect, cooked bamboo shoots or pickles prepared with them ought to be served as appetizer.
Besides consuming the shoots and herbal formulations prepared with the tender bamboo shoots and leaves, the soft bamboo shoots are also used to make a plaster which is usually used in washing out wounds as well as swollen sores. The juice extracted from the fresh leaves of the bamboo plant is also applied topically to heal ulcers.
In addition to its therapeutic uses, bamboo is also used for several other purposes. In many Asian countries, it is widely used in a number of delicacies as well as broths. For instance, in places like Assam in India, the tender bamboo shoots are fermented with oil and turmeric. In addition, the shoots are also cooked with potatoes and rice to prepare the popular delicacy called 'khorisa'. Pickles prepared with fresh and tender bamboo shoots are an extremely popular food seasoning used at table (condiment). People in Assam also use the shoots in soups and steamed tea. Nevertheless, it needs to be noted that a number of bamboo species are detrimental for our health. This is primarily owing to the fact that they enclose sufficient quantities of noxious substances that are harmful for our health.
Bamboo is also extensively used as a construction material in several countries in eastern Asia, Central and Southern America as well as the southern Pacific region. On the other hand, people in China use bamboo to process fiber with the purpose of obtaining fabric.