Tag Archives: harvesting bamboo

More on treating bamboo

During a recent visit to northern NSW I stayed at Bonza Bamboo and had the opportunity to cut some bamboo, and the time to treat it. There was also the opportunity to call in to Byron Bamboo, in nearby Tyagarah.

While Lance and Carolyn were away exhibiting at Strand Ephemera 2015, I was holding the fort at Bonza Bamboo and cutting and treating some of their bamboo to take away with me. Some poles were left standing with the solution inside for 3 weeks. For others, I availed myself to Lance’s simple and efficient PVC storm water pipe method. This is ideally suited for bamboo splits and very small diameter poles.

45 degree stormwater junction at one end

45 degree stormwater junction at one end

PVC storm water pipe of varying lengths, as seen in the photos, are fitted at one end with a 45 degree junction. Both ends are capped with a screw fitting. The lower part of the junction facilitates the loading of the bamboo. Once the bamboo is loaded the cap is screwed on. The upper facing part of the junction is where the preservation solution is poured in. The other end of the storm has an inline tap fitted into an end cap. In Lance’s system, this drains to a large drum that sits at a level below the PVC pipes to use gravity to empty the pipes after the treatment is complete.

bamboo treatment

… inline tap at the other end

All the parts to make this treatment system are readily available at your local hardware or plumbing suppliers.

Once treatment was underway I was keen to visit Byron Bamboo to follow up on the experiments they were undertaking with Freemite after the workshop in January this year. The product showed such promise as an effective and natural method to treat bamboo. Kaye is still awaiting test results for Freemite from UTS, but she did have some comments after trying the product. There were some major concerns:

  • The cost: It is an expensive product and, once diluted for use, is only effective for a month.
  • It’s very strong chilli content makes it dangerous to skin and eyes. It has a real burning effect, so from a WHS point of view here in oz it wouldn’t be deemed safe.

Ultimately, she has returned to using soluble boron, Dissolvabor, like Lance.

Bamboo on the Internet for September, 2014 – my picks

  • bamboo shoot recipesWith bamboo shoot season getting closer in the southern hemisphere, here is a timely reminder to seek out new bamboo shoot recipes. The original caption tells us that this dish hails from the north eastern states of India. The recipe for this bamboo shoot stir is here.
  • black burger, bamboo charcoal, bambooWho could resist a black burger? Images of the Japanese Burger King wonders were all over the Internet this month. Black buns, black cheese, black ketchup. Its here because the black buns are bamboo charcoal bread.
  • Bamboo bicycles are becoming more popular. I haven’t posted any here before because of their apparent ubiquity, but the DIY version looks really interesting.

bamboo sculpture, brisbane festival, cave urban, bamboo

  • This was one of the bamboo sculptures at the Brisbane Festival this year: Brisbane Airport Light Garden, a collaboration between Tony Assness and Cave Urban. Cave Urban are now calling for expressions of interest to volunteer for the 2014/2015 Woodford Folk Festival project, “Woven Cloud”. Details, and more stunning images, are on their website. Last years project, a bamboo tunnel, was featured here.
  • BOO! is a show by French trapeze artists, CirkVOSTA using a 15 metre high mobile bamboo structure. Click here for a short but mesmerizing YouTube clip of a practice session. Or watch the longer 5 minute vid of the show. Read more here.

  • Popularity can be problematic. In Burma’s northern Shan State, the forests are disappearing. Villagers seek out bamboo shoots to smoke-dry and sell to Chinese traders.  The pressures on the environment are two-fold: the foragers are taking potentially unsustainable numbers of bamboo shoots and, huge amounts of timber are needed to feed the smokehouse fires. Full story and video clip here.
  • Bamboo memory foam pillows. They’re new to me. The claims are marvellous: life span of 10 years; dust mite resistant; hypoallergenic; anti-microbial; and, machine washable.

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?

Bamboo for carbon sequestration

bamboo carbon sequestrationAt first blush, growing plantations of bamboo to sequester carbon dioxide for climate change mitigation seems like a very practical idea. Bamboo grows rapidly; it stores large amounts of carbon; the leaf litter contributes to carbon storage in the soil; and products from harvested bamboo still store carbon.

Of course, nothing is simple and there is some controversy surrounding the use of bamboo for carbon sequestration. One sticking point is the short life span of bamboo. Liese maintains that bamboo doesn’t live long enough to be effective as carbon sink. When the bamboo dies naturally, is burnt, or decomposes, the carbon is released. Natural decomposition is further increased by the gregarious flowering phenomenon.1

While it is established that bamboo does not sequesterbamboo carbon sequestration more carbon than any other tree species, and the underground rhizome is no larger than the root systems found in woody trees,2 bamboos can sequester more carbon when they are regularly managed and harvested.3,4

Even when bamboo is harvested and used to make things, key to establishing how long carbon can be stored is the durability of products made with it. Untreated bamboo is very vulnerable to attack and destruction from insects and fungi. Treated bamboo however, such as bamboo used to make houses, floorboards, and roofing are much more durable and a long life could be reasonably expected.

Düking suggests that carbon storage in bamboo can be approached in one of three ways: “(1) carbon storage in the ecosystem of a bamboo stand, (2) carbon storage in bamboo products, or, (3) sustainable bamboo stands as protection of old natural forests”.This, of course, presents particular challenges in carbon accounting.

bamboo carbon sequestrationCalculating the amount of carbon sequestered in bamboo bio-mass was a sticking point in the development of bamboo forests for carbon sequestration, until recently. An accounting method specifically for bamboo was developed by INBAR and a Chinese partner. This methodology is now approved in China and Chinese companies can now buy carbon offsets from local bamboo plantations.

In a future post, I plan to explore this topic further. Do you have any experience with bamboo carbon sequestration?


  1. Liese, W. (2009): Carbon fixation by bamboo: fact or fiction. In: Proceedings of the 8th World Bamboo Congress, Bangkok, 2009 Sept. 16 – 19, Vol (3), 71- 77.
  2. Midmore, D.J. (2009): Bamboo in the global and Australian contexts. In: Proceedings of Workshop “Silvicultural management of bamboo in the Philippines and Australia for shoots and timber”, ACIAR, pp14.
  3. INBAR. http://www.inbar.int/2012/11/bamboo-a-new-approach-to-carbon-credits-2/
  4.  Kuehl, Y., Li, Y., & Henley, G. (2013). Impacts of selective harvest on the carbon sequestration potential in Moso bamboo (Phyllostachys pubescens) plantations. Forests, Trees and Livelihoods22(1), 1-18.
  5.  Düking, R., Gielis, J., & Liese, W. (2011). Carbon flux and carbon stock in a bamboo stand and their relevance for mitigating climate change. J Am Bamboo Soc24(1), 1-7.

Bamboo shoot recipe – Prawn and bamboo shoots in coconut curry

I asked Liya Das for some Primal and Paleo-friendly Indian bamboo shoot recipes. Here is the first one: 

Special guest post from Liya

Do you have a special corner for spicy food? If yes, then Goan food is bound to blow your mind away! Goa, a small state in the west coast of India is synonymous to coconut, spices and seafood. So when these aspects come together in one single dish, the outcome is nothing short of magic. Bamboo shoots make an interesting addition to the entire ensemble as well and turn this Goan curry into an ultimate gastronomic indulgence.

While tinned bamboo shoots can be used in this dish, but nothing compares to the crunchiness and delicate flavours of the fresh shoots. The narrower shoots are packed with maximum flavours and when not processed properly, they can ruin a dish with their bitterness. So make sure to peel off the hard, outer layers and soak the tender part in water overnight to get rid of any unpleasant flavors. However, if you can’t wait to enjoy your bamboo shoots, boil them in salted water, drain and soak them in fresh, cold water for at least half an hour before using.

Once processed properly, the bamboo shoots are ready to blend with the spicy flavors to please your taste buds. The coconut milk mellow out the spiciness to some extent and teams up with the marine flavors of the prawns to create mouth-watering result.

So run off to the recipe to taste a slice of India with this classic Indian curry.

Prawn and bamboo shoots in coconut curry

bamboo shoots, recipeServes: 4-6

For the spice paste:

  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 4-7 cloves
  • 1 cm cinnamon stick
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 4-6 dried red chilies
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar

For the curry:

  • 450 g prawns, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • One large pinch salt
  • 3 medium fresh bamboo shoots, diced
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp dried coconut
  • 2 green chilies
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • Few fresh curry leaves


  • To marinate, sprinkle the ground turmeric as well as a dash of salt onto the prawns and stir them all together until well coated; set aside to marinate for half an hour.
  • Meanwhile, toss all the spices for the paste into a dry, hot skillet and fry for several minutes until they start spluttering and give out a spicy aroma.
  • Tip them into a blender along with rest of the paste ingredients and pulse them into a smooth paste; set aside until necessary.
  • For the curry, heat coconut oil in a heavy-bottomed pot and throw in the chilies as well as onions.
  • Saute for a while until they soften and stir in the dried coconut.
  • Scatter the curry leaves on top and saute over moderate heat for another 3-4 minutes or until the onion caramelise and the coconut gives out its characteristic aroma.
  • Stir in the tomato chunks and cook for another 5 minutes, while stirring often.
  • Scrape out the prepared spice paste into the pot along with few splashes of water.
  • Stir them all together to mix well and bring the mixture to a simmer.
  • Continue to simmer for 5-7 minutes and throw in the chopped shoots.
  • Simmer further for another half an hour over slow flame, while stirring at times, until the mixture nearly dries out.
  • Pour in the coconut and bring it to near boiling temperature over moderately high heat while stirring often.
  • Dump the marinated prawns into the curry and reduce the heat back to low.
  • Simmer for 6-8 minutes or until the prawns turn pinkish, indicating that they are cooked through.
  • Turn off the heat and let the curry rest, covered, for 5-10 minutes to allow the flavors to develop further.
  • Serve hot with hot cauliflower rice (or just steamed rice) and have fun!



The bamboo is shooting!

fresh bamboo shoots

Freshly harvested bamboo shoots

The onset of the monsoon has inspired the small bamboo to start shooting. Shoots are sprouting up within the grove and all through the lawn metres from the grove. Apparently, a good way to control bamboo is to eat it.

For the variety of bamboo being harvested here, I found the optimum size of the shoots to be about 20 cm high. Any smaller and the yield is a mere mouthful. Any larger and the shoots start to get a bit fibrous.

fresh bamboo shoots

The inner heart of the shoots

There are some helpful instructions for peeling and cutting the shoots in this short YouTube vid posted by Suburban Foragers.

The inner heart of the bamboo should be soaked, or boiled, or both, depending on who is telling the story. I do not have the definitive answer on this. Some folk say the soaking and/or boiling is to remove the bitter taste and some say it is to remove the hydrocyanic acid present in some varieties of bamboo.

The Life with Bamboo hybrid method

Even though the bamboo I’m using is not bitter when raw, I opted for a just-in-case method and soaked AND boiled the shoots. The shoots were soaked overnight in water, and then boiled for 20 minutes. Bamboo shoots will keep for up to two weeks covered in the water in the fridge. Change the water daily. Or freeze the prepared shoots.

The first batch of shoots that I harvested, were just dropped into a butter chicken dish near the end of cooking. As a vegetable, the shoots were delightfully crisp and tender. Nutritionally, they are good source of dietary fibre, potassium, and some other minerals.

The dogs love them too, raw, if I peel the outer leaves off for them. And the horses.

Soon I’ll post some bamboo shoot recipes. Do you have a favourite bamboo shoot recipe?

More on harvesting and storing bamboo

It’s now a month since I cut a selection of bamboo. The process was described in the World Bamboo Day post. The culms were all left upright in their respective groves, propped up off the ground by various means.harvesting bamboo Some had stones under them, others were held off the ground with bricks or blocks. Some sat quite neatly over, or in, the stump of a freshly cut neighbouring stem of bamboo. After a month of transpiration, this week I removed the cut bamboo from one grove.

After a month, the leaves are dry and crisp and brown. harvestingtranspThe top sections of each culm, where the branches start, are changing colour to yellows and browns. Below the branches, the colour on the lower parts looks to be pretty much the same as when they were cut. Unsurprising, given that this is where most of the  moisture is stored. I cut each stem just above the lowest branch and discarded the upper section with all the branches.

This sudden influx of bamboo culms has created an urgent need to get creative with storage solutions. The bamboo needs to be out of the weather, in a covered area, and off the ground. My storage solution?

Hang them from the rafters

bamboo, harvesting bamboo, storing bamboo, transpirationI’m very fond of simple, practical solutions to any challenge or problem. To create an additional area to cure and store the freshly cut, slim and light bamboo culms I used some silver rope and short lengths of bamboo. Like a series of swings or trapezes. This system will be easily expandable.

bamboo, harvesting bamboo, storing bamboo, transpiration