Bamboo is a Vegetable

When is the last time you had fresh bamboo for dinner? I learned on my recent trip to Japan bamboo is not just for pandas.

Bamboo is a very low-calorie vegetable with only about 30 calories in 3-4 oz. Bamboo is a good source of fiber, B-complex vitamins, manganese, copper, iron and potassium.

Young, tender shoots are a seasonal delicacy in East Asian regions. The shoots called takenoko are one of the spring specials in Japan. Finely sliced shoots may be served plain or with a sauce added to salads, stir-fries, or rice.

Each spring new shoots, which are cone shaped, arise from under the root system and are dug up with a spade. On its exterior, the shoot features several layers of a sturdy casing of leaves, firmly wrapped around its central cream-white heart, which is the meat of the shoot. The meat is crunchy in texture and has a mild flavor.

If you are buying fresh shoots, look for those which are most recently harvested, firm and heavy sprouts with a wide base. Avoid soft, dry roots or those turning green. Greenish discoloration indicates exposure to sunlight for a long time, overripe and can be bitter in taste. It should be eaten soon after purchase, wrapped in a paper towel and placed in refrigerator where it can stay fresh for 1-2 days.

Bamboo shoots contain taxiphyllin, a cyanogenic glycoside which is to be removed by placing them in boiling water for 20-25 minutes to detoxify them.

Super Cao Nguyen, the large Asian market in OKC, carries fresh bamboo shoots for $1.99/lb. Also, Goro Ramen in the Plaza District adds bamboo (called “menma”) to their Ramen dishes.

If you consider yourself an “adventure eater,” then bamboo should be added to your list of foods to try.

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