Bamboo is a surprisingly easy plant to grow and can be found in many regions worldwide. Let’s take a look at where bamboo grows and if you can eat it.
Though most of us likely associate bamboo with tropical regions in Asia, it can actually be found growing on all continents except for Europe and Antarctica. Bamboo plants typically grow in tropical and subtropical areas throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America. However, they also range as far north as the southern United States and central China and as far south as Patagonia and northern Australia.
Usually, bamboo is a secondary plant in forests — but it can also be the dominant vegetation. It can handle a wide range of conditions and elevations, from the warm, humid tropics to cooler, temperate climates. It can grow at sea level and high in the mountains.
Bamboo is a type of grass and, therefore, is low maintenance and easy to grow. Because of its robust nature and rapid growth, bamboo is sometimes considered an invasive species.
Bamboo is a versatile resource used in textiles, eco-friendly toilet paper, buildings and fences, and even food. There are around 1,600 known bamboo species, but only about 100 are edible. Similar to almonds and apricot pits, edible bamboo must be boiled before eating — it contains cyanide, which is toxic.
The edible parts of bamboo are the young shoots that split from the base of the plant. When harvested at the right time from certain species, bamboo shoots can be tender and juicy. Some of the best types of bamboo to grow in US climates include:
- Phyllostachys edulis — moso bamboo
- Phyllostachys dulcis — sweetshoot bamboo
- Acidosasa edulis — a sour variety
- Chimonobambusa varieties — known as one of the tastiest varieties
How to Harvest Bamboo
The bamboo season is in early spring. You should harvest the sprouts before they reach 6 inches high. Small and young Bamboo sprouts have better flavor and texture.
To harvest bamboo, cut the sprouts directly from the root. Peel the outer layer from the sprout to reveal the white innards. They can then be cut and boiled for about 10 minutes to make them edible. Drain the water and repeat this process several times to create a tender and soft bamboo shoot that you can eat right away.
You can also add bamboo shoots to recipes, pickle them, or preserve them by canning. Try growing this low-maintenance plant yourself and enjoy bamboo sprouts every spring.
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