9 Oct : Bamboo is a grass which belongs to that same family as our staple cereal crops and whilst bamboo is an equally valuable and generous source of vegetable foodstuff, it is the growing shoot and not the ripened seed grain that is eaten.
What is Bamboo?
Bamboo is a member of the botanical tribe of Gramineae with over 70 genera of reputedly 1500 species.Its woody stems called culms can have a mature size ranging from 100 mm to 36 metres with individual culms growing up to 30 cm in diameter.
How does Bamboo grow?
Bamboo grows in a fashion that is quite different from the way that a tree develops. A tree has a layer of living tissue around the outside of it’s trunk just beneath the bark. Left alone this layer of tissue adds an ever increasing circle of wood around the central mass which you can recognise as the concentric annual rings in cut timber.
This is not the case with bamboo. The bamboo stems emerge from the ground as buds with the same diameter as the final stem. They grow longer in much the same way as a telescope, extending at a very rapid rate that can be in excess of a metre a day in a mature stand. When the culm is around three quarters to two thirds tall the elongation start to taper. However, they will remain the same diameter and possibly only grow another 10% taller as they mature over the next twelve months.
Culm reaching its full height, branches start to appear and depending on species a new shoot can be fully developed within three months.
During the shooting stage the new culm will be at least 85% water and it is imperative that sufficient water is supplied to fill these vertical liquid columns. If timber is to be harvested, there will at least a three year wait for the water content to diminish, thus allowing the tensile strength to increase.
Why grow bamboo?
Bamboo has inherently faster growth rate, massive size, and ever green all year round cover.The very important fact that bamboo can be harvested without the destruction of the grove or stand.Tree plantations obviously have to be chopped down and their nutrient arrest terminated at harvest. Bamboo keeps on keeping on, with edible shoots capable of extraction after less than five years. Timber is available after seven years, then just continuing on for decades or centuries into the future with minimum soil disturbance.
Its ability to rapidly accumulate a high volume of tissue, or bio-mass can help to establish environmentally safe and reliable ways of taking up excess nutrients contained in waste waters from manufacturing, intensive livestock farming and sewerage plants.
What is a running Bamboo?
A running bamboo is botanically classed as a "monopodial" species. It is usually a temperate zone originator characterised by the development of an open network of horizontal underground stems called rhizomes, from which the new culms grow. This invasive habit has earned this group the name of "running" bamboo.
What is a clumper?
A clumping bamboo is botanically classed as a "sympodial" species. The larger of the species, usually originate in the tropics and the smaller clumpers prefer the cooler alpine regions. The new growth springs up from near the base of the mother plant to form, typically, isolated culms radiating from a centre and growing outward in all directions to form a circular mass of vegetation.
What is a Bamboo shoot?
It is the sliced and crunchy creamy white vegetable often found prepared in Asian food. It’s surprising how many people have eaten bamboo shoots without even knowing , you will never forget the unique taste of each species. The sumptuous flavour vary from species to species.
The emerging bamboo shoot is a stack of nodes that rapidly telescope, forming internodes with a separating membrane at each joint. Each new shoot is attached to the parent rhizome at the screw neck. The quantity of new shoots and their size varies within a particular species, depending on soil and air temperature, the availability of water and especially upon the age of the plant itself.
Tremendous heat is generated at the apex and when harvested the new shoots must be rapidly cooled to avoid overheating and deterioration.
Are all Bamboo shoots edible?
Bamboo shoots are mostly edible and are very nutrient rich although the flavours vary widely; many not suiting the tastes of people from some cultures. Bamboo shoots are usually cooked before eating as some may contain cyanogens. This is not a problem with most temperate bamboos, and most can be eaten without cooking if they are not too bitter.
The only Phyllostachys known to have potentially toxic concentrations of cyanogens is Ph. heterocycla pubescens, also known as Ph. edulis and as Moso. Though it is the most important temperate bamboo for shoots, due to it’s early season, its size and the amount grown, it is usually somewhat bitter, and is always cooked before eating, Even though most bamboo growers often snack on some of the shoots while working with bamboo in the shooting season, eating a significant amount of raw shoots at one time might not be advisable unless one is sure of their safety. Properly prepared bamboo shoots are a safe, tasty and exotic addition to the table.
What is a Bamboo pole?
The timber pole is called a culm or bamboo pole. It is the telescopic extension of the emerging shoot and grows to full height at a rapid rate that can in mature stands or groves exceed a metre a day.
Perhaps the most noticeable characteristic of bamboo is the segmentation of the culm into distinct nodes or joints with intermediate smooth sectors called internodes. In the great majority of cases the culm internodes are hollow but in all cases the nodal junction is solid allowing for the transverse distribution of nutrients and water.
The external surface is polished and extremely hard being coated with a protective screen of wax and silica.
Peripheral culm tissue is a dense matrix of elongated cellulose plant fibres cemented together by a substance called lignin to provide a strong and very flexible pole. Poles have multitudes of uses but must be left in the grove or stand for at least 3 years before they are harvested for the timber. When harvested they are preferably stored vertically in the shade to dry. Young culms harvested and exposed to the sun will shrink and/or crack and are susceptible to borer attack.
How to take care of Bamboo plants?
Taking care of bamboo is easy. If it seems to be doing well enough without care, anything you add will be an improvement. Any fertilizer (but not weed-n-feed types) that is sold for grass would be appropriate, though manure from any animal, compost or fish fertilizer would be just fine. Many bamboo people recommend organic, slow-release formulas. Bamboo needs quite a bit of water so if you have a long dry spell during the summer and the leaves curl, it’s past time to water.
Some bamboos do better in full sun, others in full shade. Don’t remove the leaves that drop from the plant, it serves as mulch around the base of the plant. The leaves contain silica that the plant will need for future growth and it keeps down weeds.
Bamboo culms (stalks) reach their maximum height in the first growing season and then, each year after that, usually add branches, until the culm is five to seven years old. Then it should be thinned out of the grove
How Bamboo can be propagated ?
Bamboo is usually propagated by digging up part of a clump of existing bamboo and moving it elsewhere (see the next question.) If you divide a bamboo plant and put it in a new location, it usually doesn’t do much for the first few growing seasons. The first two years it puts out roots in its new location and usually by the third year it starts putting out larger culms. By the fourth or fifth years it’s putting out culms as large as that plant ever will in that location, with that much sun and that much water in that kind of soil.
Bamboo flowers only rarely, (sometimes there’s more than a person’s lifetime between flowerings) and when it does, it takes so much energy from the plant it often dies. People try various things to save them, like cutting back the culms and fertilizing generously, and sometimes that works.
It can also be propagated via germ plasm. A small number of cells are taken from some part of the plant and grown in glass dishes.
With some tropical species, it’s possible to bend a culm in an existing clump of bamboo down to the ground, stake it and cover it partially with soil.It is essential to cover several of the nodes of the culm, as that’s where it will form roots and keep the soil moist.
Which areas Bamboo grow?
Bamboo grow from snow to the equator and all points in between. It grow in Hokkaido in north Japan ,Europe, United Kingdom, Holland, Belgium, Germany, France, America, China and all tropical and equatorial zones.
How many species of Bamboo are there?
Bamboo is notoriously difficult to identify more specifically than the species, unless there is something particularly remarkable about it. There are, by some estimates, as many as 2,000 kinds identified so far.
How bamboo seeds can be obtained?
Bamboo flowers at irregular, and usually very lengthy, intervals. In some varieties the intervals can be longer than 50 years. Bamboo seeds are not readily available and there is no organized method for distributing them when a variety of bamboo does come into flower.
How to transplant a large clump of Bamboo?
Transplanting is hard work and involves digging a large chunk of root ball out of the ground. Never transplant bamboo when it is shooting. Dig bamboo either very early in the spring before there’s any chance of shooting or wait for the growth period to be over late in the autumn. A good size for the clump would be at least two feet in diameter. Bamboo roots (rhizomes) are tough but must not be allowed to dry out even for a few minutes. A very sharp shovel, ax or saw to separate the roots from the rest of the grove.
How to preserve bamboo culms for craft work?
The physical properties of bamboo make it a wonderful resource for craft work. However, the initial challenge for the craftsman is making sure the the culms will not be destroyed by beetles or fungal attacks or ruined by cracks and splits. A few basic rules may help for a successful harvest. Age, season of cutting, and post-cutting treatments are all crucial aspects. The culms should be mature (four to eight years) and should be harvested in the dry season.