Exploring the untapped potential of bamboo
In Bali they use bamboo to build everything from schools to multi-level luxury hotels.
While climate conditions and strict building regulations mean we can’t build with bamboo here in Australia, there’s so much more we can, and should, be doing with this amazing plant.
My podcast interview with ‘Becky Bamboo’ convinced me that this plant has a bigger role to play, certainly for its health benefits, but more importantly for its environmental credentials.
When she was a little girl, Becky’s Dad planted out their family property with bamboo. Fast forward thirty years or so, and he’s one of Australia’s leading experts on bamboo.
With more than 250 different species growing, Becky’s Dad (the ‘bam-guru’) focuses on the landscaping and building side of things at Bamboo Australia.
Becky focuses more on edible bamboo with her Sunshine Coast business Big Heart Bamboo. She tests new edible species each year, and is spearheading scientific studies into the positive effects of bamboo on menopausal women.
Bamboo for the body
Bamboo has been used for eons in traditional medicine in China and India. It’s high in fibre, manganese, silica, vitamins, minerals and potassium.
And for us women, studies have shown bamboo is super good for hormone balance, menopause, and may even boost libido.
To harness all these great properties, Becky has created a range of condiments and a very unique chai tea using bamboo leaf as the base instead of black tea.
Becky supplies restaurants and retailers with her freshly grown and harvested bamboo hearts. Her ‘ready to use’ gourmet pickled bamboo shoot range includes the very delicious pina colada bamboo shoot chutney, with pineapple and coconut (great for cheesecakes) (I ate half the jar in one go).
Once boiled, the fresh bamboo shoots can be used in stir fries, tempura, curries, or in salads. The shoots taste like a cross between pasta and a water chestnut, a very subtle flavour that readily absorbs all the flavours around it.
Caution: Never eat fresh bamboo without boiling it first as it contains naturally occurring cyanide, similar to apricot kernels. (Listen to my podcast to find out how to prep bamboo for eating.)
Bamboo for the mind
Visit any zen garden and you’ll find bamboo growing. The reason for this is that bamboo is hollow and absorbs outside vibration – sound, motion and static. It naturally creates a zen space which calms the mind and body.
I got to experience this myself on a tour of Becky’s bamboo plantation. Stepping into a towering ring of vibrant green bamboo I felt a great sense of peace and wellbeing…. like stepping into a church or sacred space. This ‘bamboo cathedral’ is a special space, and has been used for events, long lunches and even a wedding ceremony.
Bamboo for the planet
Bamboo is actually the world’s largest grass. It can grow up to 1 metre a day and some species can live for up to 300 years.
It is also one of the best carbon sequestering plants. In fact, farming bamboo on a massive scale could be a simple but fast way of sequestering carbon from our rapidly overheating atmosphere.
“Depending on the species, bamboo can reach full maturity in 1 to 5 years, making it perhaps the only tree-like plant that can keep up with the rate of human consumption in terms of fuel, timber and deforestation, according to experts – unlike hardwood trees, which can take up to 40 years to grow to maturity.” IPS News
China’s Special Representative on Climate Change has even said that bamboo could become part of China’s emissions trading scheme.
Bamboo also does a great job of sucking up nasty chemicals from the soil, and could (should) be used by farmers to absorb chemical fertilisers before they leach into our waterways.
There are two types of bamboo, running and clumping. The ‘safe’ non-invasive one to plant in your garden is the clumping version (the running one will spread, rapidly, and you will not be popular with the neighbours). Bamboo is ideal if you want to block out said neighbours – a natural, fast-growing green wall that acts as a sound barrier too.
Bamboo is also a safe-haven for nesting birds, because cats and cane toads can’t climb it.
OK, so I hope I’ve convinced you to get some bamboo onto your fork and into your garden.
To taste bamboo shoots visit Big Heart Bamboo or visit Becky’s stall at the Eumundi Markets.
To buy clumping bamboo plants visit Bamboo Australia
In this podcast episode Becky and I dive into the amazing world of bamboo, you will learn heaps!
Hi, I’m Shannon, a travel and food blogger living on the Gold Coast in Australia. My hobbies are gin, road trips and food tours. Sign up for my newsletter and follow me on Instagram @_eatwelltraveloften_ for more of the good stuff.