Bamboo Shoots!

One of Spring’s pleasures are Bamboo Shoots. Here, young Yellow Grove Bamboo (Phyllostachys aureosulcata) is emerging:bamboo1
The sizes are variable:
I use a bayonet to cut below ground. Before splitting and cutting off the base, theres soil and knife-dulling fibers at the shoot’s base:

The bottom 2-4 bracts are peeled away by hand to expose soft, soil-free parts:

Next, the bottom is removed and the shoot is split lengthwise:

Now, the inner shoots can be popped out by using your thumbs on the cut side, on either side of the center, and pressing to fold the wrappers backwards. The back side of shoots often has flaky, immature leaves which are removed so you don’t have a bunch of unattractive “plant dandruff” floating around.

Run a knife from tip to base, just scraping/cutting the loose bits off. The shoots are now ready for parboiling.

I put the split shoots in a large pot of boiling water and cook for about 5-10 minutes. Then, I spider out the shoots and put them into a fresh, slightly smaller pot of boiling water for about 4 minutes. Once drained and cooled, they’re ready to put into recipes or to make delicious pickles. I marinate them in a mix of cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Kept in the fridge, they last a long time if you’re generous with the vinegar. You can also season pickles to be similar to marinated artichoke hearts.

Not all species of bamboo make edible shoots! You’ll need to search out that information, once you figure out what you have access to. The shoots should be mild, slightly sweet and free of any bitter or soapy taste. Some types get fibrous quickly and must be harvested at a very small, mostly underground size. The grove I manage provides me with many poles for garden vegetables, too. Constant vigil is needed so the bamboo doesn’t take over! I’ve kept the same size groves (2) for over twenty years.


I love bamboo shoots, especially when they are young and tender, delicious!

I don’t grow any bamboo, but I see my neighbours have them, some new shoots coming out right now, but not as fat as yours.

Which growing zone are you in? I am trying to think what glowing climates does bamboo like. Probably pretty moist, not too hot?

Thanks so much for your bamboo info and pics! My wife and in-laws are bamboo heads, and we regularly send packaged bamboo from our local SF markets to them in Texas. Yeah, one would think that a 99 Ranch in Dallas would have enough demand and stock bamboo, but no.

Do you know the difference between “winter” and “spring” bamboo. SO’s family prefer the winter bamboo, which is not available packaged, and only available a short window each year. When available, we buy a 40lb case, book a flight to visit and lug to them as check-in luggage.

Its bamboo season in Asia now. We saw beautiful bamboo all over in Japan and Taiwan last week. Assuming they are spring bamboo?

Japan: approx. USD$4.50 per lb. ($1/100 gram)

Taiwan: approx. USD$0.70 per kilo (2.2lbs)

Regretfully, we ate bamboo only once during the trip. As a chilled salad, slathered in mayo (yuck). We scraped the mayo off, and the bamboo was delicious!!!



Sck, I’m between zone 6-7. Last winter, it dipped to -5 F (-20 C). It routinely gets in the nineties, starting in May. Some years are wet and others, like this year, are very dry. To get bamboo established, it should be watered when dry. Once it gets going, it gets no care, other than keeping it under control. The saying goes: “At first you’re afraid it will die; then you’re afraid it won’t!” It can be managed, but if left alone, the running types quickly become invasive. I had three groves and managed to kill one off after two became productive enough for my needs.

Basically, the types called “winter” are from much larger-growing species. These are harvested when short and fat. If allowed to get much above the soil, they can get woody. They’re more solid inside, fewer air pockets. Folks often feel for the tips with bare feet, and dig out the shoots. The bottom pictures (Taiwan) look like winter types.

Spring types are more tender and picked when about 4-12 inches (10-31 cm) tall, depending on how fat they are and how much sun they’re getting (no sun/blanched=more tender). Once cleaned, you can cut off any bottom parts that are too green or tough. The top picture, with the lady’s red gloves pointing, shows “spring” shoots, peeled whole, which takes more time.

Freshly harvested shoots must be kept cool and prepared quickly; they do not keep well, especially at room temperature. If consumed in quantity, they can have a laxative effect. A friend and chef once ate about a pint jar (in one sitting)of my pickled soy/sesame oil shoots and reported this effect. “I don’t care; they’re so good I’d do it again!” Could’ve been the sesame oil, too, I guess.

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