Bamboo grows best in zones 5-6, in full sun or partial shade. However, some varieties do best with shade during the hottest part of the day. Most clumping bamboo struggle with temperatures below freezing. Bamboo plants prefer a slightly acidic, well-drained, soil of with a PH around 6. Bamboo is considered easy to grow inside, provided the right conditions are met. Be sure to place the pot in a sunny spot and water it enough to keep the plant moist. Many bamboos are much more drought tolerant that most think, but if given too little water, most varieties will start to show some leaf curl before the plant shows significant signs of decline. (1) It is difficult to overwater bamboo; generally the more water it gets the faster it grows (grown in heavy clay, some bamboo can rot, however). Bamboo culms need to be removed periodically as they get old and die. (2)
Bamboo is basically a form of grass, though with a woody stem (culm). Some are small and almost grass-like, while others have huge culms (over 100') and up to 8" in diameter. Bamboos differ in more than just size of culms. Though most have straight-ish culms, some have incredibly pole-like straight culms that look almost too straight and smooth to be a natural plant product. Some bamboos have amazing colors, and hundreds of cultivars are grown with amazingly colorful and artful striping and patterns on the culms. Some species have thorny culms. Bamboos also vary in leaf size, texture (some leaves are fuzzy, some are rough and almost dangerous to handle) and some are variegated. Bamboo is from an ornamental group of plants and many are excellent for landscaping as well as for growing in pots. However, bamboo is more importantly and economically vital species in many parts of the world, being used for construction, weaving, clothing and for food (for both us and animals). (2)
Culinary and Medicinal Uses
Bamboo shoots are rich in nutrients and low on calorie and fats. The shoots are also an excellent source of fiber. A single cup of bamboo shoot is enough to meet the body’s daily fiber requirement. Bamboo shoots are also rich in potassium and lignans, which have anti-cancer, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties. It is excellent for boosting the health of the heart. Bamboo shoots also help in keeping the blood pressure to normal levels. As such, including bamboo shoots in the diet is a good way to include all these health benefits. Bamboo shoots also have anti-inflammatory properties and anti-oxidants. (3)
Gulai Rebung is a popular dish in Indonesia, which is a curry made from bamboo shoots. The shoots are sliced thin and boiled in santan, which is thick coconut milk, as well as quite a few other spices. Sayur Lodeh also uses bamboo shoots, mixed with vegetables in coconut milk. Lun Pia is fried bamboo shoots cooked with vegetables. Khorisa is a popular dish in Assam, which is fermented bamboo shoots similar to those popular in Nepal. Kardi is prepared in Sambalpur, India, which is fermented and grated bamboo shoots. Amil also uses fermented shoots, which is a sour vegetable soup. People even use bamboo to make pancakes in India, using rice flour to ensure that the pancakes don’t fall apart. (4)
The Chinese, who have perfected the art of cooking bamboo shoots, knew only of its property in curing infections. In Chinese medicine, bamboo shoot is extensively used to treat infections. Bamboo is also mentioned in ayurvedic medicine, where the silicious concretion found in bamboo stems is said to act as a cure for various respiratory diseases. Bamboo shoots can be used to clean up wounds; sores that are maggot infested can be cleaned with the juice of bamboo shoots. A poultice made of tender juice is also very effective in this treatment. About 120 ml of bamboo shoot juice taken twice daily can be very beneficial for ulcers. Bamboo shoots also enhance the digestive action of the stomach and may be beneficial in various types of stomach disorders, especially in treating diarrhea. Bamboo shoot soup can speed up the measles cycle in children. Having bamboo shoot soup, twice a day can speed up the appearance of measles rashes and so the recovery will also be fast. It is also believed that bamboo shoots can also be used to induce labor in the last month of pregnancy. Bamboo shoots have beneficial effects in treating bleeding piles and gonorrhea. The fresh juice of bamboo shoots can also be used to kill intestinal worms. (3)
Significance to Cultural Communities
Bamboo is originally native to East Asia. Bamboo is an important symbol of traditional Chinese values, and represents a balance between nature and human beings. Chinese tradition regards bamboo as one of the “four gentlemen” along with plum, orchid, and chrysanthemum. The tall firm stance of bamboo is said to represent honor, with the hollow interior representing modesty. Bamboo is also essential for constructing various Chinese instruments such as the flute, sheng, zheng, jinghu, erhu and banhu. (5)
Bamboo is also very important in Nepalese culture. It is used in many rituals (birth, marriage, death). Babies are carried in bamboo hammocks, children play on bamboo swings, and dead bodies are carried away in bamboo stretchers. The plant seems to be weaved throughout all phases of nepalese life. (6) In Nepalese food, bamboo shoots are often fermented and served with vegetables. There is also a dish called Alu Tama that consists of bamboo shoots that have
been fermented with turmeric and oil, then cooked with potatoes and served with rice. Aloo Bodi Tama is another popular Nepalese dish, in which the bamboo shoots are pickled and served with black-eyed beans. The shoots are pickled in jars with mustard seeds and turmeric, and then kept in direct sunlight. Tusa refers to baby bamboo shoots that are cooked as a curry in many of the rural regions of Nepal. (4)
1. Aronson, Anna. “Growing Conditions for Bamboo.” eHow. http://www.ehow.com/facts_4927485_growing-conditions-bamboo.html
2. Stein, Geoff. “Introduction to Bamboo.” Dave’s Garden. August 8, 2008. http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/1168/.
3. "Medicinal Properties Of Bamboo Shoots," The Iloveindia website. http://lifestyle.iloveindia.com/lounge/medicinal-properties-of-bamboo-shoots-9756.html.
4. “Culinary Uses of Bamboo.” bamboo blankets. March 13, 2013. http://bambooblankets.net/2013/03/13/culinary-uses-of-bamboo/.
5. “Bamboo, a symbol of traditional Chinese values.” China Daily. January 19, 2011. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/life/2011-01/19/content_11882983.htm.
6. “Bamboo.” Sahaastitwa: Strengthening Local Cultures to Build Harmony in Nepal. http://nepalculture.org.np/culture/culture_products/bamboo/