Cold Hardy Edible Bamboo


#1

Some of you remember this topic What wild plants do you collect? , this topic The plants you would not think are edible and people eat, this topic Was: Hello all, plus pics; now: bamboo discussions and many others. My goals are this time is to be specific on Cold Hardy Edible Bamboo where to get it, what it costs, etc… Bamboo feeds and shelters many in the world.


#2

Have you ever processed fresh bamboo shoots? If not, I’d recommend seeing if you can buy some fresh, unprocessed shoots to get a feel for what’s involved. I’ve only done it a handful of times, but my impression is that unless the shoots are pretty big it’s not hardly worth the trouble of processing.

There’s a stand of Phyllostachys areosulcata down the road from me that’s pretty big (probably spreading about 100’ along a creek), but I’d consider it pretty marginal for processing. Some of the culms may be up to 2-1/4" in diameter, but even in a mature stand a lot of the culms (and shoots) will be significantly smaller than the maximum. And then you have to figure that bamboo species grown at the margins of the climates they’ll tolerate (not just winter cold but also rainfall and other conditions besides climate…) will never attain the same size as when grown in the ideal location.

I think for shoots that most people interested in eating bamboo would take the trouble to process, you probably want something that produces culms at least 3" in diameter. (The shoots, including the outer parts that are shed as the culm develops, may be a little larger than the eventual culm diameter, but the edible part inside, especially the tender, good-to-eat part, will probably be smaller even at the large end, and it tapers to a point.) In zone 6 Kansas, you might have some options that could reach close to 3" culm size, but I think the standard eating options like Phyllostachys edulis (moso) and Phyllostachys dulcis (sweetshoot) would be out. Phyllostachys vivax definitely grows in at least some parts of zone 6, and it can max out well over 3" in good conditions. If I were in zone 6b and interested in edible shoots, that would be my best hope for edible shoots. Phyllostachys nigra ‘Henon’ is another good size species that I think is hardier than moso or sweetshoot. Be aware that other strains of Phyllostachys nigra are quite a bit smaller than the Henon strain.

I’d guess none of these species would grow as well in Kansas as in parts of the eastern US that get equally cold in the winter but have more rainfall. Do you ever see sizeable bamboo growing anywhere around where you live (when you’re driving around or in parks or zoos or…)?

Sometimes bamboo will survive in a location but regularly die back to the ground. If that happens it probably won’t attain anywhere close to its maximum size.

I believe pretty much all of the edible bamboo species that can tolerate fairly warm (Midwest/eastern US) summers and zone 8 and colder winters are in the Phyllostachys genus. Phyllostachys nuda seems to commonly be considered the cold hardiest Phyllostachys species, but it’s only supposed to be hardy to -10, and I think under normal growing conditions it maxes out significantly smaller than Ph. aureosulcata, the species I mentioned growing at the end of my road, which seems to me quite small to process for shoots.


#3

Thank you ive not had any experience processing bamboo but love the taste of it. Your description is excellent and made me aware there is much more to it. Im interested in learning more. The largest bamboo i see in my area is about 1" in diameter.


#4

I have a stand of bamboo in my backyard that is so old it’s visible in an aerial photo taken in 1952. Myself and an old neighbor of mine have eaten it several times. It’s a bit of a pain to process, but not too bad. I find it a little tasteless though, and not interesting enough to fool with regularly. Certainly not worth the absolute nightmare that I have trying to keep the patch from expanding. I would never in a million years consider planting bamboo on purpose. It’s a constant battle keeping it from taking over my whole yard. When my last neighbor moved there was a period of about 9 months where the bamboo wasn’t cut continually. It expanded into their yard a good 75’ in that time, and it’s still there. Getting back that 75’ patch of yard would take a solid week of work.


#5

Since you use the word “yard” I assume you’re talking about a more or less suburban context. Controlling bamboo would be very different in a farm context, especially with a tractor and subsoiler (an implement that’s probably only a few hundred dollars new – I bought mine for $75 or $100 used) and/or livestock. Bamboo also spreads very weakly into established forest as it’s not very shade tolerant. And it won’t spread underneath even a small creek. And in a farm context spaces and tolerances just aren’t as tight. It can definitely spread aggressively into suburban lawn, flower beds, etc.

75’ is a huge amount of spread for one year, though. I’ve never seen or heard of more than about 20’ of spread per year, and even that is counting just a lone shoot/culm out at the furthest point. My impression is that regularly mowing a 20’ perimeter around an established grove (at least around whatever part of the perimeter is open grass) is generally very sufficient for controlling the spread of bamboo.

I’d also note that bamboo is normally planted in suburban contexts for screening, with no intention of ever harvesting anything. If bamboo is being harvested (for shoots or poles or fodder…) that’s going to tend to slow its spread, especially compared to getting to feed off adjacent lawn fertilizer (and maybe sprinklers) without ever getting checked except at the perimeter.

I can definitely imagine what a huge task reclaiming 75’ of established bamboo grove would be, though. The only halfway easy way I could think to do it even in a farm context would probably take the better part of a decade, especially since the base of the culms even after cutting them down can take years to rot down.


#6

I follow this thread with interest as I’d like to find out if there is such edible hardy bamboos for zone 6 a. As far as I know, there are a few bamboos that can be grown in my zone 6 a but none is edible.

Growing up eating plenty of bamboo shoots and like them, I agree with @cousinfloyd, the process is a pain. We wore gloves as protection against the fuzz (Felt like needles to me) on the outer “leaves” that covers the shoots.

Some bamboo shoots are sweeter than others. “Sweet” is a relative term. It tastes mildly sweet. Those who are not used to it may wonder why you eat a piece of tasteless wood!!!


#7

i acquired a pot of young sweet edible bamboo in a local trade. and im growing mines in a large pot. just like i grow normal running bamboo. i have seen some videos of people harvesting fresh bamboo it look fun im give it a try. hope to see it grow fast in spring and summer. right now it is still small. i hope to learn more about growing cold hardy edible (yummy) bamboo


#8

What is the prosess of preparation and cooking ?
Recipes?
Raw ? Cooked ?
Anyone eating yellow groove Bamboo?


#9

You probably can google Youtube, how to peel bamboo shoots. I found this one in Thai. The girl is the interviwer and the guy is a bambooshoot hunter. Bamboos grow wild. He supplements his income buy hunting for edible bamboo shoots and sells them.

Not all bamboo shoots are fit for consumption. The edible ones are sweet and not very fiberous. He called the ones he sold “sweet” bamboos. After peeling, putting those shoots in water helps them remain fresh and not turning dark.

https://www.google.com/search?q=วิธีปอกหน่อไม้&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en-us&client=safari

Fresh bamboo shoots are often used in soup, typically with pork, in curry or stir-fry as a vegetable. Dried and re-hydrated bamboo shoots are used extensively in Chinese cuisine.

I don’t have any particular recipes. Usually, it is recommended to boil those shoots (after peeling) first to get rid of its bitter taste and to throw that water away.


#10

The bamboo grove in my yard sends up shoots well over 50’ away from the main stand, and in great numbers. Probably about 1 per square yard out to 25’ or so and then one every few yards out to 50’. I mow once a week in the late spring and they can get close to a foot long in that time. They can be kept at bay by mowing, but if you wait too long they toughen up and are hard on a regular mower. My problem is they come up through my woodpile, along a fence that is hard to mow, up around tree roots etc etc and I have to cut them with a machete. Sure, a farmer can control it by spraying or digging, but I bet most farmers would kill it on sight. Just too much trouble. Oh, and the cut stems form perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes- specifically the Asian mosquitoes that are vectors for the Zika virus. I wish I could get rid of mine entirely.


#11

I’d like to find good basic but detailed prep and cooking recipes for fresh bamboo shoots, too, but I can tell you what I’ve been doing and enjoying. Yellow groove (Ph. aureosulcata) is mostly what I’ve eaten (and what’s in the first photo below), just because it’s what seems to be most common, at least around me, and what I’ve had access to. My family has very much enjoyed the taste, but I’ve tasted very few shoots from any other species, so I can’t compare it to much. I think the main reason it isn’t eaten more commonly is just that the relatively small size makes processing more tedious.

I really don’t know what the proper way to process bamboo shoots is, but the best way I/my family has figured out to process them is to cut them in half lengthwise, then peel off the leafy part away from the shoot, then cut off the tougher, more fibrous bottom portion, boil the upper portion for 5-10 minutes, then mix it with whatever we’re going to eat it with and stir fry it or whatever.

I really enjoy bamboo shoots, but they are quite plain. I think of them more like an Irish potato or rice, not an exciting taste but something I could enjoy as a staple, especially mixed with other more flavorful things (similar to how people commonly eat Irish potatoes or rice, etc.), at least for the relatively brief time of year when bamboo is shooting.

For comparison here are a couple photos of some moso shoots (from a less than fully mature stand of moso):

2 lbs 3 oz for this one shoot (split in half), although I’m not sure everything on the scale was tender enough to be good to eat.

And here’s a photo of some of the smaller Ph. aureosulcata shoots my family cooked up.


#13

@PatapscoMike, have you considered trying to sever the rhizomes near the edge of the grove? My somewhat educated guess would be that if you could find a practical way to sever the rhizomes at the edge of the grove a couple times per year that the existing rhizomes would die off over the next few years once severed from any photosynthesizing parts, and then the only new shoots you’d get wouldn’t come up nearly as far from the grove, and what growth you did see would be much weaker. I’ve already mentioned using a tractor and a subsoiler, but a method that might be more practical in some other circumstances might be to just take a fairly long spade and just cut a line around the edge of the grove. If the ground isn’t easy to cut into, I’ve heard people talk about digging a 12-18" deep trench and filling it back with sand to make cutting the rhizomes easy. People also install barriers to keep bamboo from spreading, but I think you’d have to go down a full 18" and watch for rhizomes that would try to grow over the barrier, because if you block the normal path of growth (just a little below the surface) then the rhizomes will try to grow around any obstacles somehow.


#14

Digging an 18" deep trench for 100 yards or so would be quite a chore, and that much sand wouldn’t be cheap. That’s just for the little bit on my property. I’m just on one corner of it. The patch is about an acre in size. I’ve had lots of ideas but for the most part I just stick with frequent mowing.


#15

@PatapscoMike
Yes , I feel your pain of trying to control bamboo.
X a dozen
Years ago I came home with a dozen starts of yellow groove. And foolishly planted them here and there, around the farm.
I have regretted planting all of them where I did.
II have some of them along my road. They will close the road when it snows. And are Allways causing me work…cutting them back.
Don’t get me completely wrong, it is a very useful plant , lots of garden stakes , etc, way more than I need.!
I have tried various ways to kill , beat back, the patches over the years. All have failed. It’s definitely winning.
If you cut it to the ground , you cannot walkin there next year to do it again, too much stuff to move …!
This year I took a 20 lb. propane tank with a big torch to a patch , mid summer, just blistered the bottom of the stems.
They turned brown, but sent up smaller sprouts late.
I can still walk in there so maybe next year I can at least bring it to its knees ?
I would like to have just one patch on the farm that I can access, but not near anything I care about.
If the roots are left undisturbed, you are fighting " one " large plant that needs weakened and killed (?)
If you cut the roots as @cousinfloyd suggested then you have many individuals, while smaller , they need controlled individually .
I would like to hear from someone who has won this battle ?
My advice is …" Be Careful " where you plant running bamboo.
Be careful what you wish for.


#16

@PatapscoMike maybe your best bet is to hope it all just goes to seed and dies soon. If it’s been there since at least 1952, it seems like it would be due pretty soon, at least if what I understand about how bamboo goes to seed is correct.

@Hillbillyhort I appreciate you sharing your story and you’re warnings. I planted bamboo on my own place for the first time 7 years ago, and it’s only been in the last year or two that it’s started to grow in the way that I could see anyone calling it invasive, and based on how aggressively I’ve seen more established stands growing elsewhere I think it’s going to get even more aggressive yet. I’ve been using bamboo that I’ve collected from other people’s mature groves wherever I can find it for so many things, that I can’t imagine not wanting it on my own place, and I feel certain I’ll use it a lot more if I have it available. I’ve avoided eating shoots from stands that I know other people have been wanting to kill, but I would definitely enjoy eating more shoots, as well as finding ways to preserve them (canned, pickled shoots…), and hopefully selling them at the farmers market where I’m already selling, too. And it’s difficult to transport longer lengths of bamboo, but there are certainly things for which I could use longer lengths if I had them here. And I know my goats really like it, and it’s apparently good for cattle, too, so I’d love to be able to cut a bunch down every winter as a kind of partial hay substitute. I could go on and on talking about random ways I’ve already found bamboo very useful, beyond all the ways I discussed in the thread linked at the top of this one, but I also realize a lot of people aren’t interested in doing as many things for themselves as I want to do, don’t have the land or time to do what I’m doing, and aren’t as averse to manufactured/purchased alternatives as I am.

As far as keeping bamboo from getting out of hands to start with, I’m counting on having a tractor with a subsoiler and cattle and goats making a big difference, besides just having enough space that my tolerances are a lot greater than they would be in a suburban context, for example.

As far as reclaiming land from an established bamboo grove, I would love to hear from more people with experience about that. I know of a couple people that have gotten rid of large (at least 1/4 acre) groves of mature bamboo, but they both did it all at once, and I’m pretty sure they hired heavy equipment to get the job done. In order to reclaim land from an established bamboo grove without spending a bunch of money, I would hope I could cut it down, strip by strip if it was too much to cut down all at once, and then graze it heavily to prevent any more tall culms from establishing themselves until the bases of the original culms rotted away enough to mow the area, and then if kept fairly low by mowing at least a few times per year and if unable to gain nourishment off any adjacent culms, I’m hoping bamboo would fail to compete with a good stand of fescue after a few years. Even without livestock, I wonder how much work it would be to just kick/break off all the shoots every shooting season within a strip along the edge of a cut down section of an existing grove. How much work would it be to reclaim a couple hundred square feet (or more) every year like that?

And for whatever it’s worth in controlling bamboo (probably little or nothing), I hear rabbits really like to eat bamboo shoots.


#17

When I was younger, I could not envision having too much bamboo,
Now , I can’t imagine cutting it all down if that was all I did !
And to control ( kill ?) it ,this may take many years , 5+ ?

When I cut it , I cut it flat to the ground, with a battery powered sawsall . It’s safer that way than leaving a stubb.
In my experience, if you can get it all cut, and cleared enough to mow.it just turns into a lawn grass . Even mowed short repeatedly. It’s still there. It can be maintained this way. But if you turn your back on it, or can’t mow one little spot. It shoots right back up. I have never killed a patch , despite much effort.
Cutting and over grazing may work ?
My horses used to ride the cains over and eat the leaves, despite, having other good things to eat. It seams they Prefered it. May be a good winter forage for goats,etc.
I have no livestock now, so that is not a option right now.
Most of my patches are in areas I cannot mow, but keeps moving into areas I don’t want it.
And here it seams to thrive, even in the shade of wooded areas.
Since it is 30+ ft tall, even on the edge of a road , field , when it falls over, it takes a lot of work just to clear it up.
After a snow, ice , storm I has taken a day just to clear the road.!.. So… I cannot just ignore it…!


#18

These warnings seem very, very good. Thank you.

How competitive do you think it would be in the grass form? When you said it might take 5+ years to maybe kill it, did you mean that keeping it in the grass stage for 5+ years might kill it? Or does it seem like it can wait in the grass form (repeatedly mowed) practically indefinitely? Do you think there’s any hope of fescue/pasture choking out grass form bamboo over the course of 3/5/7/+ years to where it would be completely dead and gone?

If you cut bamboo stubs down low with your batter powered sawsall, can you then immediately drive over them with a tractor or vehicle? Or do you still have to wait for them to rot before you can practically and tire-safely drive over them?

How much does your bamboo spread into wooded areas with trees that are already taller than the bamboo? It doesn’t spread nearly as aggressively in such areas as it does into full sun, does it?

Have you ever cut a whole patch completely down? I’m curious what hopes for killing a patch might be unrealistic.

Do you have any of the native eastern North American river cane (which is a species of bamboo)? There’s some of the smaller type native river cane growing wild across the road from me, and I planted some of the relatively larger (but still smaller than even the smaller Phyllostachys species we’ve been discussing in this thread) river cane. The stuff across the road is very non-aggressive. It seems to just barely be surviving, and it grows so sparsely you wouldn’t even know it’s connected underground (but I assume it must be), but it’s growing in heavy shade. The native river cane seems like an excellent, useful bamboo without the invasive concerns of the Asian species, but it retains lots of old dead leaves in amongst the green growth, so it’s scraggly looking, nothing like the very pretty ornamental look of many of the Asian (Phyllostachys) species.


#19

Yes, if cut "flat at ground level "you can drive over.
I think it could survive indefinitely ( maybe longer ) mowed short.
Over grazing for 5 years may ? Weaken it enough to kill it.
Assuming no leaves see daylight for long.
Yes , I have cut several patches completely down for several years. When I quit cutting they jump right back up.
No river Cain here.
Yes spreads in the shade too.
It sends roots like 20+ feet under ground one year, undetected., then shoots up in unexpected places the next.


#20

I know of a few patches that were in a state park that were permanently removed by removing the upper 2’ of soil- literally digging the entire thing up roots and all. It works, but of course it’s expensive to get a backhoe and requires a permit (here in MD). It’s a real bitch to cut is one of the problems with it. It’s so incredibly hard. Easiest way I have found is with a chain saw- though it ruins a blade quickly. A machete works but it takes 3 or 4 hard hits at just the right angle with a very sharp machete- and you are left with a wicked sharp piece sticking straight out of the ground that stays hard and sharp for 12-18 months before it rots. A sharp bolt cutter works but my bamboo gets too big for my bolt cutter to handle. A battery powered sawsall actually sounds like a great idea. I need to look into that.
It does not encroach into dense woods or into horse or cow pasture. It can’t take shade and farm animals eat it as fast as it grows as long as they have continual access to it.


#21

Well , the first patch I planted , on a different farm, was in a very small clearing in a poplar forest.
Now that clearing has been closed by the very tall poplar trees . And that patch covers about a acre.in full shade of the forest.
So it grows well in the shade, if it gets a start in some sun.