Bamboo shoots are mainly used in Chinese and South East Asian cuisines, although they grow quite profusely on the Indian subcontinent and are exported from Bangladesh. Bamboo can be used for furniture as a wood substitute and is used to make flutes or diki in India. They can also be used to make paper and the charcoal from bamboo makes for an excellent air purifier. Bamboo is known as “the Grass of Heaven” perhaps because its leaves are considered an aphrodisiac. There is one type of bamboo called Rhino Bamboo because of its shape and this commands a very high price on the Asian markets, as it looks very similar to a rhino’s horn and is believed to have the same aphrodisiacal qualities.

Bamboo plants are prehistoric plants and used to grow to heights in excess of 250 feet. Now they can reach over 60 feet, but are dwarves compared to their prehistoric relatives.

Freshly cut bamboo glows in the dark as it contains antioxidants which prevent it browning when exposed to air, and these spring into action when the bamboo is cut as a self defence reaction. These antioxidants counteract bacterial infections and so can be useful to the human body when they are digested. If you use fresh bamboo shoots they need to be boiled for 45 minutes before they can be used in a dish, as they contain hydrocyanic acid. If you use tinned bamboo shoots or prepackaged ones that they have already been processed and are safe to use in a recipe.

Bamboo is a grass and the fastest growing plant on the planet, so it is sustainable. It has been used for over 7000 years as records from China show. They have been used as medicine since ancient times, and are still considered effective for coughs, colds, sinus congestion and sore throats on the subcontinent. A powder is made from the bamboo, mixed with chillies, cardamoms, cinnamon and sugar to treat these minor ailments. The juice from the young shoots can be applied to wounds to stop bleeding and infection, and also the tender young shoots can be made into a poultice and applied to wounds. The leaves can be made into a decoction and used to treat diarrhoea and stomach upsets. 120 ml of juice from the shoots can be taken daily as a tonic. The leaves and shavings of the bamboo can be used in a decoction to stop burning sensations in the stomach and is a coolant.

Of course, pandas love bamboo, so there’s no reason for us not to enjoy it as they prefer different varieties to the ones we generally eat. We are not depriving pandas of food when we have bamboo shoots. They are usually used in stir fried dishes but can be grated and used in salads to for an added crunch. They have a fairly mild flavour, but as they are so rich in minerals as well as vitamins and are a good source of fibre, without containing loads of calories, they really are good for our health. Pickled bamboo shoots are used as a condiment too.

2 boneless chicken breasts cut into slivers
1 small tin bamboo shoots, cut into slivers
10 water chestnuts halved
1 handful bean sprouts,
1 carrot, cut into 2 inch, thin slices
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 onion, finely sliced or spring onions
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 inch ginger root, finely chopped
3-4 green chillies finely chopped
1 head of broccoli cut into florets
2 tbsps soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine or white wine
1 star anise
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp sesame oil
oil for frying


Heat oils and fry chicken quickly, sealing all sides, with star anise and cumin seeds. Add all the vegetables except tomatoes and stir fry for 3-4 mins. Add soy sauce and wine, with tomatoes and stir well to mix. Add the bean sprouts last. Fry for 5 mins maximum.

Remove from the heat and serve with rice, noodles or rice noodles.

This has Taste and is a Treat.

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