At present nutritional data comes from the labels of canned bamboo shoots and from analysis of moso bamboo
grown in China. Data on the web says that bamboo shoots are 90% water, 2.4% protein and contain 17 amino acids.
Lysine, glutamine, and arginine are in higher amounts than cabbage, carrots, onions and pumpkin. The amino
acids methionine, phenylalanine and valine are unique to bamboo.
I sent three kinds of bamboo to EMSL Analytical in New Jersey. My results were similar to the data above.
My shoots were 92 percent water and less than 2% protein. They had no sugar and no fiber except for the
Japanese timber which had a little. Why? I think because I harvested it at the last minute when the shoot
was a few days older than the usual time to harvest. It had had time to start developing fiber and sugar.
You may read about my results here..
Shoots in a Grove
People ask "How do you eat bamboo?" They are thinking of the hard wooden canes which, of course, you can't eat.
What you eat are the very young canes when they first emerge from the ground. These are called bamboo shoots.
They have not yet hardened. They are succulent and crisp. Bamboo "shoots" out of the ground in spring - called
The tender shoots are protected by the enclosing stiff strong sheath leaf. In the variety pictured,
Phyllostachys nigra henon, the sheath leaf is a purplish color and the culms are green. (Large henon poles are
grey.) Because the shoots are a different color, you might think they were a different variety. I did when I
first saw them.
These shoots are older than prime harvest time. They are too far out of the ground for selling. OK for home
Harvest a Shoot
The base of the shoot has a thin neck which attaches to the rhizome. With a sharpened spade, you can cut the
shoot from the rhizome by severing the neck. With practice you can feel whether the spade is in the correct
Shoots last longer in the refrigerator when the base is intact. However, most buyers prefer the base to be cut
off. The base is woody and inedible. They don’t want to pay for the cob, just for the corn, so to speak. If
your buyers prefer, cut the shoot underground near the base. This is quicker and easier than cutting the neck.
Some varieties must be harvested while very young - under a week old. Dig them while they are close to the
ground like the moso in the photo. These are the varieties that have stronger wood. They become bitter earlier
than the weaker ones and they harden earlier also. Other bamboos have weak wood and can be harvested later when
farther out of the ground. The advantage of harvesting the shoot later is that it is bigger and weighs more.
After the shoots are harvested, trim off what needs trimming. Place them in the cooler with ice to cool them
down fast. It is not that bamboo shoots are fragile like berries. It is just that all (most?) vegetables last
longer when cooled immediately after harvest. Wade says they stay fresh for a couple of weeks at least.
The photo shows a moso bamboo that I dug at Georgia Bamboo in Fort Valley GA. I trimmed the roots. The neck
that connects the shoot to the rhizome is obvious at the base of the shoot. The dark brown is above ground
where the light hits it. The light brown and white are below ground.
The moso shoot was harvested with its base intact. Most buyers prefer to buy shoots without the base. The
reason is that the base is woody and inedible. It is easier to harvest shoots without the base. Quicker…
However, if you are going to ship the shoots, they will last longer with the base intact.
The second photo shows Phyllostachys viridis Robert Young shoots harvested without their bases. A nice
feature of these shoots is the smooth skin with no hairs. These are nice young shoots. Notice the plump
look and the small size of the sheath leaf tip on the fat one in the middle. Sheath leaf tips are small,
compact, stiff, sharp to allow the shoot to penetrate the ground as it grows through the ground and up. The
oldest shoot is the one where the sheath leaf tip is beginning to turn green. As the shoot continues up
skyward out of the ground, the sheath leaf changes for sharp tip to penetrate soil and leaves and rotten
wood to a long leaf that has various colors depending on the variety of bamboo.
The tip of the shoot is very tender. The base is more fibrous. I like to slice the tip in
large pieces and the base in smaller pieces. You knife will tell you which parts are tough. Some people dice
the tougher parts of the base and cook it in stews and soups.
Bamboo shoots add excellent texture to any dish. You can slice them into interesting patterns. The flavor is
mild. Bamboo shoots pick up the flavor of the spices and broth they are cooked with.
Cleaned henon shoots in Bamboo Basket
Henon has strong wood. Therefore these shoots are harvested when short and tender.
Take the Shoots to Market
Boxed and waiting at the back of the farm stand. When the display box at the front of the stand is
sold out, these shoots will refill it.
Shoots and Other Vegetables
The red dots will grow into roots. Shoots are best harvested before the roots elongate.
Educate your Customers
Wade Bennett is a successful farmer. He stays ahead by planting crops new to the public. He adds value to his
standard crops by making wine and vinegar from his orchards and berries. He also is an outstanding people
person who talks with every customer about his bamboo shoots. They walk away with a free sample in their bag
and the information on how to slice and cook the shoots. Many people who buy bamboo shoots from Wade have been
customers for years. Some are caterers and restaurant chefs. For them he will bring a separate box of shoots.
They pick it up as they walk the market looking for fresh and interesting produce to cook at their restaurant.
Sell the Shoots.
Wade Bennett has split a shoot open to show people the insides of the bamboo shoot. He explains how to pop the
shoot out of its sheath leaves and how to broil or grill them until they carmelise. He retails the small
diameter shoots for $3 a pound. He sells shoots with a three inch diameter for $5 per pound. He sells these
large shoots to high end Japanese restaurants. The tender inner sheath leaves are excellent cooked in soups.
Remove sheath leaves.
The tip of the shoot is very tender. The base is more fibrous. I like to slice the tip in large pieces and the
base in smaller pieces. You knife will tell you which parts are tough. Some people dice the tougher parts of
the base and cook it in stews and soups.
Bamboo shoots add excellent texture to any dish. You can slice them into interesting patterns. The flavor
is mild. In many cases dishes are prepared where the bamboo shoots pick up the flavor of the spices and
broth they are cooked with.
How to remove the sheath leaves.
The quickest way to remove the sheath leaves is to cut the shoot in half lengthwise. Bend the leaves backwards
and the meat will pop out. The tender inner leaves are delicious also.
Some bamboos are boiled uncovered in ample water with their leaves attached. This is only necessary for the
more bitter bamboos. For me cooking simply for myself (living alone) I don't boil my shoots. Just slice
them and drop them in the wok.
Notice the fine white meat of these
A chef preps the shoots
Bamboo shoots are very ornamental in a dish. They take on the flavor of what they are cooked with. Here the
chef slices the shoot in half. Then he pops the shoot out of its sheath leaves.
Rich broth receives bamboo shoots
Chef places cut bamboo shoots into a flavorful broth. He will use them later in various dishes.
Meanwhile they absorb flavor and keep from spoiling.
Cook up garlic, ginger, and onions. Get the good smells rolling. Add broth. Then stir fry many
vegetables along with the bamboo shoots. What a delicious meal. How pretty to look at. A dash
of soy sauce for flavor. Fresh cooked whole grain rice. A great meal!