Friday, May 29, 2015

Invasive Bamboo Identified

I like to keep a current list of the invasive plants of Connecticut on hand, and on the copy I printed out, I highlight the edible ones. Just doing our part to reduce the invasive plants by eating them! We eat garlic mustard, Japanese knotweed, Rugosa roses, autumn olives, wineberry, sheep sorrel, dandelions, black locust blossoms, and now we found a few local sources for yellow groove bamboo.

Older stalks and some of the still-sheathed stalks from this year

Observe the yellow groove on the stalk

Yellow groove bamboo (Phyllostachys aureosulcata) is a grass that is often sold as an ornamental, promoted as good for privacy hedges. While not on the invasive list, it is a plant that is monitored by the CT Invasive Plants Council, and homeowners who plant it are subject to rules about letting it escape property boundaries and fines for not containing their bamboo groves. Yellow groove bamboo is very aggressive and spreads easily through underground rhizomes, and we have seen it growing up through the pavement. Yellow grove bamboo is a cold hearty variety, living through the winters here in Connecticut just fine. I see it listed as invasive in neighboring New York, as well as into the southern states where it grows in temperate to sub-tropical climates. As another invasive plant, we would never recommend planting yellow groove bamboo on your own property, or spreading it in any wild areas due to its destructive nature.

Bamboo shoots are mostly water, and are a low-calorie, high-fiber vegetable popular in Asia. They are eaten raw, boiled, pickled, canned, roasted and grilled. Not all species of bamboo are edible, some are rather bitter and others may contain a cyanogenic glycoside, (taxiphyllin), which can change to hydrogen cyanide in your gut. This toxin breaks down in water, so just to be safe, we boil our bamboo shoots.

 In Connecticut, the stalks grow up to 20-30 feet tall, and many of the leaves will drop in our cold winters.  Each stalk has cross walls, and the stalk is hollow, making it light. The leaf branches alternate on the stalk, and on the side of the stalk where a leaf stem emerges, there is a distinct yellow groove in the segment of stalk between the cross walls. Robert and Gillian like to collect sections of the stalks to make drinking cups and vases for flowers, and to carry small things around. The dry, mature stalks can be used as building materials for trellises in gardens, or for plant stakes.

The shoots are easily separated from the protective sheath

New shoots start emerging in May, and we can harvest them for about 3 weeks by chopping the top 1-2 feet off of the rapidly growing stalks, or finding the newly emerging shoots between the mature stalks. The shoots have a sheath covering them when they first emerge, and it is striped yellow, green, and a bit of purple. This leafy sheath should be removed, and we slice the shoot lengthwise first before sliding a thumb under the chambered shoot and the sheath; it should come apart quite easily. We then boil the split shoots for about 15-20 minutes in water with added rice or rice bran, which is the traditional Japanese way to prepare takenoko. Tossed with some soy sauce and ginger, or lemon juice and olive oil, they make a fantastic cold salad, or delicious cooked vegetable.

Cut and cleaned shoots, ready to boil and eat

Gillian using the saw to cut some bamboo lengths for playing


Wean said...

We get many of the plants you mention here in UK, but bamboo isn't one of them.
I'm looking forward to trying Japanese Knotweed soon.
Love your blog - very informative.


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