May 4, 2012
During the past couple of weeks all sorts of strange plants have been popping out of the ground. But one plant life form must have originated on some alien planet. They are the sprouts of the giant bamboo found in many parts of Japan. The plant grows to be at least 10 meters tall in one season. The sprouts are strong enough to thrust their way through the pavement on the roads in our neighbourhood. The sprouts are very fast growing and just after they appear the Japanese tool called a "kuwa" is thrust into the soil next to the "takenoko" or bamboo sprout and leverage is applied to pull the sprout with its roots out of the ground. This is aggressively trimmed and what remains may be 30cm long and nearly 10cm thick. The structure of this is quite interesting in that the nodes found in mature bamboo are already evident in the bamboo shoots. Farmers can use the mature bamboo for various structural purposes and when dry it burns very well. I used a 3cm diameter bamboo stave to replace a hoe handle and it appears to have enough strength to handle the stress. But it is a battle to control the many varieties of bamboo that grow near farms. The takenoko near our house that have not been eaten were aggressively chopped down to prevent invasion of the farm yard. I find this quite painful considering the fantastic prices we pay for bamboo in Canada and for pathetically thin pieces compared to what grows here.
Young fresh takenoko are cooked and then refrigerated. Then pieces of this are cut off and used in soups, stir fries or whatever you can imagine. I have eaten canned bamboo sprouts in Canada, but find that they have a certain almost musty taste. The fresh sprouts are almost tasteless with a pleasant texture. The information on the Internet indicates that it is a good source of Dietary Fiber, Protein, Riboflavin and Zinc, and a very good source of Vitamin B6, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.
I tell people that Japanese people eat everything and that is not far from the truth. Various wild plants have been on our plates. Recently the more familiar asparagus has been appearing from a 'secret' location near our current home. What was even more surprising earlier in spring when we ate substantial quantities of canola flower buds with about the top 10cm of stem.
Click on link to see photographs on Picasa Takenoko.