Bamboo is a tall rampant growing grass which can be a ground cover 1-3 feet high or with culms or stems 6 inches in diameter 60 feet high. Quite a range but not for a plant that consists of thousands of cultivars. While it is the main and for those who still live in the wild, the only food for the Giant Panda, Bamboo is also eaten by people. Certain types of Bamboo are, anyway, the Bambusa Vulgaris, Phyllostachys Edulis and Phyllostachys Nuda to be exact.
Bamboo is so easy to grow it hardly seems necessary to discuss it but these edibles like ample water, rich soil and regular grass fertilizer to encourage good growth for harvesting the yummy shoots. Growing Bamboo in pots with compost and organic matter makes it good for those living in colder regions outside the comfort zone for growing these tender plants. They can be brought into the house for over wintering. If you are living where Bamboo grows well outside taking measures to restrict its growth is advisable. Planting Bamboo in half barrels sunk part way into the soil will help curb its wondering ways.
In the spring is when the Bamboo shoots are harvested. They poke out of the ground and quickly get to the six inches or so when they are at their best for picking. When they can be bent down to the ground and they easily snap off is when they are perfect but if you wait even one day they might be twice that size and considerably more bitter and too tough to eat. Getting them at the right time is essential therefore and requires constant vigilance until you get the hang of it.
If your stand of Bamboo is only just planted do not harvest all the shoots or you may kill the entire plant. It needs to establish itself rather a bit like asparagus crowns when first planted. Like asparagus Bamboo should be harvested about inch below the ground level. Cultivars for edible Bamboo are as follows:
Bambusa Vulgaris, grows only in zone 10 and is rather rare. It grows 15-50 feet high depending if it has ample moisture and good, fertile soil.
Phyllostachys Edulis and Phyllostachys Nuda are far more readily available and can be found at http://www.ediblelandscaping.c om. These bamboo grow 20-34 feet high and in zones 7-9 in full sun.
Though Bamboo is used all over the Orient in all sorts of dishes many people don’t know that it contains cyanide. They always soak the Bamboo shoots for several days replacing the water often to leach out the cyanide before eating Bamboo. Because they are high in cyanide eating raw Bamboo can cause severe intestinal pain, dysentery and even death. It is said during times of war they used to feed unprepared Bamboo to their prisoners of war and then laughed at them as they writhed in pain and often died horrible deaths. All’s fair in love and war, I suppose. So, make certain you use caution when eating this delicacy. I for one will allow the Pandas to have my share.
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