Edible Bamboo Shoots Healthy and Sustainable

a panda eating bamboo shoots

We all know pandas eat bamboo, but you can also enjoy edible bamboo shoots. It turns out that bamboo is not only edible, but tasty and good for you too. Young bamboo shoots are softer, more nutritious, and tastier than the woody older stems you might already be familiar with. Read on to find the ins and outs of edible bamboo.

All Bamboo is Edible But Not All Bamboo Shoots Taste Good

Fresh bamboo shoot on a plate

People have cultivated bamboo over thousands of years for specific reasons, like quick growth, unique colors, and cold tolerance. There are more than a hundred kinds of bamboo grown for food around the world. Most of the bamboo sold as food is from cultivars that have other uses. Some cultivars are especially tasty, while others are just easy to grow, grow quickly, grow large shoots, or native to the area. If you’re looking to grow your own bamboo shoots, your garden supplier can help you choose a bamboo variety for your needs. However, prepared edible bamboo is cheap and easy to find, so most people prefer to buy it ready-to-eat.

Bamboo Shoots Are Good For You

soup with menma (lacto-fermented bamboo shoots) and other toppings

Bamboo, like most vegetables, has more carbohydrates than protein or fat. However, bamboo shoots do have some protein – 2.5 grams per cup. They are also an excellent source of vitamins, particularly vitamin B6, copper, and vitamin E. Bamboo shoots have significant quantities of other nutrients, such as Iron, riboflavin, potassium, and thiamine. Finally, they contain silica, which supports collagen production in your body. This means that adding bamboo shoots to your diet supports joint health and youthful skin. Not bad for only 64 calories per cup!

Bamboo Shoots Are Poisonous Before Cooking

pieces of freshly cut bamboo

Like many foods, bamboo must be cooked before eaten. Raw bamboo shoots contain toxic hydrogen cyanide. That might sound scary, but is very simple to remove the toxin from the bamboo, and people have been doing it for thousands of years in their home kitchens. All you have to do is boil or soak then dry the bamboo shoots to make them safe to eat. Most people don’t do that themselves these days. You can buy ready-to-use bamboo in most grocery stores, and an even wider variety of products online. Bamboo that comes canned or dried is ready to eat, and you can cook it in your favorite bamboo recipes.

Canned Bamboo Shoots

cooked bamboo shoots on a plate

If you’re looking for a simple way to try bamboo shoots, start with the canned variety. Edible bamboo canned in water has a pure bamboo flavor and a crunchy or chewy texture. The taste is fairly mild and makes a great addition to dishes that have a good flavor balance. You can also get bamboo pickled in brine, which is better preserved and has a softer texture. Both water-packed and brine-packed canned bamboo shoots absorb the flavors of the rest of the dish you put them in, making them great additions to most any savory dishes. You can find canned bamboo shoots at most grocery stores and online.

Dried Bamboo Shoots

hot and sour soup with bamboo shoots

Drying foods is one of the oldest preservation methods, and dried foods still have some advantages. Dried foods are lighter in weight and therefore cheaper to ship. Bamboo shoots are no exception. To prepare them to eat, you must soak them in water to rehydrate. You can also use other flavorful liquids, like broth, to add some extra punch to your bamboo shoots. Afterward, the bamboo shoots can be used the same way as canned ones, or they can be turned into menma, a fermented bamboo condiment. Dried bamboo shoots are a little extra work, but can be an inexpensive way to buy edible bamboo if you know what you’re doing.

Pre-made Condiments With Bamboo

preserved bamboo shoots on a plate and in a jar

Another form of prepared bamboo shoots is menma. They are made by drying, rehydrating, and lacto-fermenting bamboo shoots. This process makes a unique, flavorful side dish. Menma is savory and sweet with a crunchy texture. You can find Menma at Japanese markets or online.

If you prefer to heat things up, you can try chili bamboo shoots. This flavorful bamboo shoot preparation usually includes spicy chili pepper and oil, along with other flavor enhancers like salt and sugar. Chili bamboo shoots are delicious alongside a meal, or alone as a savory snack.

Include Bamboo In Your Regular Diet

vegetable stir fry with bamboo shoots

Bamboo shoots can be added to the foods you already eat, or eaten in dishes that traditionally include it. You can add bamboo shoots to soups and stir fry, to complement your favorite flavors. Or, you can add bamboo condiments like menma and chili bamboo shoots as a side to an entrée.

Bamboo shoots are also an ingredient in hot and sour soup. If you’ve tried this delicious dish, you’ve probably already eaten bamboo shoots! Menma is also a traditional topping for Japanese noodles like ramen, so if you’ve had authentic shoyu ramen you’ve eaten bamboo before. Like any vegetable, there are infinite ways to cook and enjoy edible bamboo shoots.

fresh bamboo shoot split in half in a bowl

Considering the number of edible cultivars and the variety of preparations, it’s no wonder that bamboo is such a staple in Asian cuisines. They have a ton of nutrients and provide a delicious way to get your vitamins and minerals in. Besides that, you can find bamboo shoots prepared a number of ways, available right out of a can. Edible bamboo shoots are a delicious and healthful addition to any diet.

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