Our stands of giant bamboo are a never-ending source of disappointment to us. That is because they are enduring proof that the cargo cult does not work. The cargo cult is that school of thought that says “build it and they will come”. We often see it espoused in this tourist backwater where we live. Build a café/gondola/light rail/cruise ship terminal/tourist hub (strike out any which do not apply) and visitors will arrive. Well no panda bears have arrived here, is all I can say. I even checked that they eat Phyllostachys edulis – it is not their favourite bamboo but they will eat it.
We have one stand of giant bamboo confined on a small island in the stream where it cannot leap for freedom. The other is on a boundary and each spring we have to dig out the new shoots which pop up across the boundary fence. They grow extremely rapidly and would colonise the neighbour’s paddock if left to their own devices. This is Phyllostachys edulis and the second word is a clue – it is edible for humans as well as panda bears. There are many edible bamboo varieties – 110 out of 1575 known species. Apparently.
I tried blanching and freezing a few shoots last spring time and they stored well. Bamboo shoots are not exactly full of rich flavours and are more of a subtle and textural addition to stir-fries. My home prepared version is easily equal to tinned bamboo shoots, maybe superior because I keep them slightly crisper. This spring I am preparing more because I can see they would be a pleasant addition to salads and platters as well.
Mark brought in bucket of young shoots and it yielded 14 packages for freezing – each being more or less equivalent to a standard sized can. They are easy to prepare. I slice vertically and then peel off the outer layers until just the lattice centre remains. At this stage, as Mark said, they rather resemble a pagoda in form. I slice them into centimetre thick lengths.
I checked the internet for recipes. Bamboo shoots can be bitter and are not palatable fresh and raw. But I covered them with cold water and added a tablespoon of sugar, bringing them to the boil and simmering them for about eight minutes. I then discarded that water and covered them with fresh, cold water and a couple of teaspoons of salt. They were then brought back to the boil for another couple of minutes, then cooled and packed in meal-sized quantities, adding a little of the cooking brine. They are in the freezer. That is all it took. The bamboo season is but brief and we are eating freshly freshly blanched baby shoots this evening with dinner.
Each time we transit Hong Kong, we pause in awe to admire the bamboo scaffolding that often encases high rise buildings. It seems unlikely that Health and Safety inspectors in the western world would ever accept the use of bamboo scaffolding but it has a proven track record and would be a great deal lighter and easy to assemble and move than the heavy pipe scaffolding used in this country.