When we first came to Hawaii, there was not one bamboo plant growing on our 9 acres. How was I going to build a tiki hut?
What was here, was a small trailer; for maybe hauling sheep or goats. I saw a posting at the community mailboxes for someone who wanted a trailer and I gave them a call. He wanted the trailer and we agreed on a trade of 6 bamboo plants. I got the kind of bamboo that was construction quality that would grow nice and straight (thinking tiki here). In addition, I got some that were good for eating.
You have probably eaten bamboo, if you have ever had Chinese food. It’s either in little strips, or somewhat larger ones; looking very similar to pasta except clearly a vegetable. Occasionally, it will be the tip of the shoot and look triangular with little grooves. Mine looks like disks. Bamboo gives your Chinese food that nice crunch. I like to add them to stir fries.
I planted the bamboo and when it started getting bigger, you could see the shoots coming up out of the soil. I was perplexed at how to go about harvesting and eating them. I even dug one up and found that it was extremely woody, bitter and hard work.
Years past before I got the courage to try again. What I found out that it’s not nearly as hard as I first thought, and it’s fun and delicious. They’re so easy to process, that it could be a fun project for you to do with children.
First, you must harvest growing shoots under 1 foot. Use a saw to cut them off at ground level. No need to dig them up.
Be careful about the tiny, fine hairs growing on them–they will make your skin itch if you get them on you. Get about three shoots, enough to fill up a 4 quart sauce pan. Bring them to your kitchen and start to peal off the paper like coverings. You will need a sharp knife to sever the attachments at the base of each covering.
Just keep pealing until you get down to the white soft core. Cut off the tip by moving towards the bottom until it slices through very easily. Discard any tough pieces that your knife does not go through easily.
Once you get them all pealed, washed and sliced, you will need to boil them to release some of their bitterness. Bamboo contains cyanide so you can’t eat them raw, you must cook them. Put them in boiling water with a pinch of salt for 20 minutes, drain and boil them again in new water for 20 minutes. Drain.
Make a salt brine (3 tbls of salt to a quart of water) and add them to it. Let them sit over night in the refrigerator to meld. The next day they will taste like the ones you’ve had before. In brine, they have an extended shelf life or you can prepare them for canning in jars.
They add a nice crunch and liven up most dishes. It’s also a good way to keep your bamboo in check and prevent them from taking over you or your neighbor’s property. Eating them also tones down the guilt of not having made a tiki yet–at least that works for me!