There are many different species of bamboo, all members of the grass or Poaceae family so it is related to rice, black rice, Kans grass, maize, sorghum, millet, rye, barley, oats and wheat just to name a few of its relatives. Bamboo is a favourite food of the Giant panda and the Bale monkey (which was only discovered by Westerners in 1902), which lives in
Ethiopia and is dependent on bamboo for its survival. The Asian elephant likes them too, but is not as picky an eater as the Giant Panda or the Bale monkey.
There is a traditional belief that a bamboo grove was a favourite dwelling place of Buddha and it is said that in such a grove you find tranquility and it also stimulates creativity.
Some bamboo is used for timber and is a hard one when treated, preferable to hard or soft wood which takes years to grow. Bamboo could be the timber of the century as it can grow to its peak in 5 years and can be harvested after one, so is a sustainable crop. It can also absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than an equivalent stand of trees, so if more were planted, it could help with the world’s pollution problem.
China, bamboo was a writing material which faded into obscurity when paper was manufactured in the 4th century AD or thereabouts. Now it has numerous uses- 1,500 is a figure that has been mentioned. It is useful as fibre as it absorbs sweat and has antibacterial and anti-odour properties. You can now get socks made from bamboo fibre, for example. It has been used to make bicycle frames, for construction (whole houses have been made from it which are earthquake resistant), bridges (there’s one suspension bridge in Sichuan province China, which is at least a thousand years old), fly fishing rods, and many more uses.
Thomas Edison used bamboo for a filament in his light bulb which is still working in the Smithsonian museum and he used it as needles for his phonographs too. In
Japan and other Asian countries, tattoo needles are made from bamboo. In 2005 Asus made a laptop case with it, so you can see that it is very versatile.
The name “bamboo” is onomatopoeic, as it is said that this is the noise it makes when it is laid in a fire to scare away wild animals. Marco Polo, the Italian adventurer reported this in 1270.
The material made from bamboo is UV resistant and so can block those harmful rays, and it is also hypoallergenic and heat regulating.
Bamboo is the fastest growing known plant and this has led to its use as a torture plant. It can grow inside the body for 2 to 4 days if conditions are right, and the poor person subjected to this form of torture would have an excruciating death.
This grass can also be made into biomass and charcoal. A power station in the
Philippines runs on bamboo chips. Clearly it has potential as a fuel as it also makes good charcoal which is a deodorizer.
The joints or culms of bamboo exude a sap which is rich in silica and this supports many of the body’s functions. It should be no surprise to learn that bamboo has been used in traditional medicine systems in
Asia for thousands of years. In Ayurvedic medicine practised in the Asian subcontinent the sap is known as tabasher and is used in Tibet with other ingredients for lung diseases. This substance contains more silica than is found in horsetail and it is the richest source of organic silica known. It is believed that silica can help protect against Alzheimer’s disease, cardio-vascular disease, can help delay the aging process of the skin as it provides a boost to the collagen and elasticin which maintain the skin’s flexibility and elasticity so preventing wrinkles forming. It also assists in healing bones which have been fractured, and in promoting healthy hair, nails, lessening bone mass loss, helping joints retain their flexibility and easing joint pains.
Bamboo vinegar is a by-product of the charcoal-making process and this has anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties, and is added to bath water, used for eczema and other skin problems.
The leaves of bamboo contain flavonoids which have antioxidant properties. It is thought that these flavonoids may promote blood circulation, reduce inflammation and inhibit allergic reactions. The leaves are used in traditional medicine for their cooling, astringent properties, for fevers, wound healing, for eye problems and to regulate a woman’s menstrual flow. Juice from the leaves is also used to make bamboo-flavoured beer.
Bamboo is used to stop vomiting, and mainly for coughs, bronchitis and other respiratory complaints. In some countries it is also thought to be an aphrodisiac and is also used to remedy STDs.
Bamboos shoots, the tender young ones are edible and used extensively in South-East Asian cuisine. They taste sweet and are ubiquitous in stir-fries in the
UK. These are rich in minerals and a useful source of the B-complex vitamins.
There is no doubt that the bamboo has a lot to offer us and there are several research studies being carried out in institutes and universities around the world to discover just how useful it could be in the future.
STIR-FRIED CHICKEN AND BAMBOO SHOOTS
½ chicken breast, boned and thinly sliced
sliced green beans
sliced water chestnuts
1 inch root ginger peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp peanut oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
½ handful fresh chives, chopped
1 red or green chilli finely chopped
white wine (optional for thinning sauce)
Heat the oils together in a frying pan or wok and when hot add chicken. Fry for 2 minutes then add the vegetables, chilli, garlic and ginger. Fry for another 2 mins and add the soy sauce and chives.
Heat through and serve on a bed of rice.
This has Taste and is a Treat.
Note: Add as many vegetables as you require.
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