Bamboo yam sticks

bamboo yam sticks, treated bamboo

Yam farmers in Trelawny, north-west Jamaica are increasing yields and saving money by using treated bamboo poles as yam sticks. The bamboo yam sticks used in Trewlawny have a number of additional side struts that promote extra lateral growth and assist in anchoring the vines as they climb. The farmers save money in two ways: less bamboo yam sticks are needed with the side struts in place, and the treated bamboo lasts longer.

The use of treated bamboo for yam sticks has the potentially far-reaching consequences of reducing deforestation, and thereby enhancing groundwater conservation. In recent years, cutting down young forest trees for yam sticks has produced record rates of deforestation in Jamaica. This practice is unsustainable. The young forest trees only last for about two years or less as yam sticks, but take at least five years to regrow.

Treating bamboo

The Jamaica Gleaner reports that the treatment process is simple. “Dried bamboo sticks are placed in water in a ‘tank’ made from blue tarpaulin, framed with lumber; this is allowed to ferment, removing the starch and other substances. The process takes 30 days and the water is changed every seven days.”

bamboo yam sticks, treated bamboo

Comments on the article from readers indicate that for yam farmers in St Catherine, in the south-west of Jamaica, the use of bamboo is nothing new and they don’t bother with the ‘treatment’. Rather they, “cut the bamboo [on a] ‘dark night’ when the moon shines the least,” to achieve a similar insect-repelling outcome.

Vegebamboo veggie bambooI use bamboo in the vegetable garden. With a ready supply of bamboo on hand, I don’t treat the bamboo for the garden. It lasts for a few seasons and I cut some more.

In summer, a frame for a shade cloth canopy is created by hammering star pickets into the earth and ramming large diameter bamboo culms over the star pickets. In the winter, our main vegetable growing season here in the tropics, bamboo is mainly used to support cucumbers and encourage pumpkin vines to grow in the desired direction. The top end of the smaller bamboos, branches intact, are also useful to stop birds stealing seedlings. Are there any creative uses for bamboo in the vege garden you’d like to share?

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