May 1, 2018 · vallibus food

Bamboo

On my first visit to this house, when I was still searching around for a place to call home, I noticed the beautiful little bamboo forest behind the workshop and woodshed.

bambooforest

It's a really mature and unique landscaping feature, and not one I'd expected to find in southwestern Virginia. I came to learn that it's considered an invasive species and an all-around nuisance.

bamboosnow

It absolutely can be, especially when it gets loaded down with just an inch of snow and blocks the private road that serves my house and a few others. (I am a good neighbor and trim it right away whenever that happens, but southerners tend to stay put when there's snow on the ground anyway.)

bamboohandles

I do see where folks are coming from in condemning bamboo. It is an invasive species, and since it's essentially giant grass, it spreads like wildfire. But it's also incredibly useful. I used some that was already cut and dried to make perfectly sized, lightweight, biodegradable handles for protest signs last year, and they were a huge hit. They also make great garden poles.

Also, you can eat it.

shootsraw

Kinda. Young bamboo shoots are edible if boiled and drained to break down the natural cyanide compounds within them. Anyone fond of Chinese and Japanese cuisine probably already knows this, but it was news to me (even though I love both!) Last year, when the shoots began appearing almost overnight, I angrily kicked them over, not wanting bamboo to take over the whole yard. Only afterwards did I realize I'd just trashed a bunch of seasonal food.

shootscleaned

This year, I gathered all the shoots I could find and cleaned/trimmed them down to the less-fibrous edible portion, then boiled them for two hours.

shootsboiled

Then I put them in some clean water and soaked them overnight in the fridge. The next day, they were incredibly soft but still slightly rubbery, which is normal. I found this recipe for bamboo and ground pork stir fry and decided to give it a go (also used their prep instructions). I substituted dry sherry for the rice wine (which I couldn't find at the grocery store), and chili powder for the red chili pepper (which I just flat out forgot to buy).

shootscooked

It turned out great! Very tasty, and I didn't die of acute cyanide poisoning, which is always a bonus. The bamboo honestly doesn't have much taste of its own, and becomes infused with whatever else is in the pan, sort of like tofu. Overall, it was very gratifying to go from finding a "nuisance" in the yard one day, and then eating it the next. I'm sure there are lots of other plants in my yard and the forest beyond that I've been neglecting.

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