Munching Bamboo Shoots

Bamboo shoots are the edible shoots (new bamboo culms that come out of the ground) of many bamboo species including Bambusa vulgaris and Phyllostachys edulis. In fact, there are over 70 genera of bamboo, separated into 1450 species. They belong to the Poaceae family, along with wild rice (Zizania), wheat (Triticum), rice (Oryza), corn (Zea), oats (Avena), barley (Hordeum), millet (Echinochloa) and rye (Secale). Bamboo shoots, stems, and leaves make up the majority of several animals’ diets, including China’s Giant Panda, Nepals’ Red Panda, and the bamboo lemurs of Madagascar.

Bamboo was first used in China more than 5000 years ago. During the Shang Dynasty (16th-17th century BC), bows, arrows, and other household items were made using bamboo.

Ancient Chinese writing tablets made of bamboo strips, called Yinqushan Han Slips, and dating to the second century BC, were discovered in burial tombs in 1972. Several important writings were discovered, including the lost chapters from the Six Strategies.

In 105 AD, Cai Lun of China made the world’s first plant tissue paper out of bamboo.

A book written during the Jin Dynasty (265-316 AD) detailed the different species and uses of bamboo.

During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), bamboo was used to make bedding and flooring. By 1486 AD, Bamboo charcoal was created, which burns cleaner than traditional charcoal.

In 1894, a patent (No. 8274) was filed in England for the first bamboo bicycles, which were shown at the London Stanley Show.

In 1947, World War II was still in its final stages and countries the world over were rationing resources, especially in Europe, where artisans at Gucci looked for materials that weren’t rationed to use in their designs. They could still import bamboo cane from Japan, and Gucci craftsman developed a patented method to heat and bend the bamboo in such a way that it would retain its shape once cooled and affixed to a handbag. The iconic Gucci bamboo-handled handbag was an instant hit.

Today, people appreciate fabric made from bamboo, which is highly absorbent, and comparable to the softness of cashmere.

Most bamboo shoots are edible, and are common in several Asian dishes and broths. However, the shoots of the giant bamboo contain cyanide. The edible part of bamboo is a low-calorie source of manganese, vitamin B6, fiber, and copper. Bamboo shoots can:

  1. Improve cholesterol levels. Eating bamboo shoots can reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol.
  2. Promote digestive health. Bamboo shoots promote healthier bowel function due to their high fiber content. Most Americans don’t get enough fiber and a serving of bamboo shoots is a healthy, low calorie way to add some extra fiber to your diet and prevent constipation.
  3. Fight disease. Bamboo shoots contain lignans which may fight cancer, bacteria, fungi, and viruses. They also contain phenolic acids, phytochemicals which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may prevent cancer and reduce the risk of hardening of the arteries.

With only twenty-seven calories per one hundred gram serving, bamboo shoots are a calorie counter’s dream come true. Combine that with the high fiber content and you have the perfect guilt-free food. The high fiber will help to fill you up and reduce your need to snack on more calorie rich offerings.

A 3.5 oz. serving of home-cooked bamboo shoots provides 15 percent of the Daily Value (DV) for potassium, yet the same amount of canned bamboo shoots contains only 2 percent of the potassium you should have each day.

Nutrients in 100 Grams Canned Bamboo Shoots

Nutrient

Amount

Daily Value

manganese

0.2 mcg

8%

vitamin B6

0.1 mg

7%

fiber

1.4 g

6%

copper

0.1 mg

6%

zinc

0.7 mg

4%

protein

1.7 g

3%

vitamin E

0.6 mg

3%

potassium

80 mg

2%

phosphorus

25 mg

2%

vitamin C

1.1 mg

2%

iron

0.3 mg

2%

thiamine

0.026 mg

2%

riboflavin

0.026 mcg

1.7%

Calories

19

1%

calcium

8 mg

1%

magnesium

4 mg

1%

carbohydrates

3.3 g

1%

folate

3 mcg

1%

selenium

0.5 mcg

1%

niacin

0.1 mg

1%

pantothenic acid

0.1 mg

1%

sodium

7 mg

0.3%

vitamin A (100% as beta-carotene)

13 IU

0.26%

cholesterol

0

0%

If you find fresh shoots in the grocery store, peel and boil them before serving. Canned shoots are readily available in Asian markets and grocery stores; reheat them or serve them chilled.

Fresh bamboo shoots can be stored for up to a week under refrigerated conditions. Place the bamboo shoots in water and keep changing the water daily. Keep away from sunlight. Transfer opened, unused canned bamboo shoots to a bowl containing water. Change the water daily, but use within 4 days.

Use bamboo shoots in stir-fries, toss them with pasta or add them to casseroles. Alternatively, marinate cooked or canned shoots in vinegar and add to antipasto dishes.

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