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How to prepare bamboo shoots

September 24, 2012

In yesterday’s blog I mentioned bamboo shoots. I got e-mail requests about how to prepare these, so here we go:

1. You harvest bamboo shoots in the rainy season, the season of growth. You will not find bamboo shoots in the dry season unless you water and fertilize. Use a broad kitchen knife and cut the shoot when it is about 20-30 cm tall.

2. Remove the papery culm sheath and cut the lower woody part. Slice the shoots.

3. Heat water (3 litres) in a generous vessel and add salt (1 tsp) and sugar (2 tsp).

4. When boiling, add the sliced bamboo shoots and cover with a lid. Let the shoots boil for 10-15 minutes or until they are soft. If you use a bitter bamboo variety, you need to boil much longer, up to half an hour. Ketsanee remarked that she never uses poor bamboos because at Dokmai Garden we have always access to good species (e.g. Thyrsostachys oliveri, Th. siamensis, Dendrocalamus asper).

5. Discard the water and serve the shoots as a side dish or as an ingredient in a vegetable wok stew.

I personally find the shoots more tasty when served cold.

To the left a sliced bamboo shoot and to the right the papery culm sheath which you discard. Thyrsostachys siamensis. A feature of grass (bamboos are grasses) is the hollow stem, interrupted by nodes. In a young shoot you see the compressed culm (essentially a woody straw) with the many hollow internodes. The rapid speed of ‘growth’ is largely due to an elongation process rather than cell division.

Ketsanee claims that over-consumption of bamboo shoots may lead to Iodine deficiency and struma. A quick internet search confirmed that bamboo shoots (and cassava and sweet potato) indeed contain ‘goitrogens’ (cyanogenic glucoside), but cooking reduces the content significantly. The reason the bamboo shoots contain these compounds is to protect them from predators. Plants do not want to be eaten, and being unable to run or bite, they protect themselves with chemicals.

Text & Photo: Eric Danell

(Precipitation report: no rain for a week – we got 19 mm on September 17).

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