Edible Bamboo Shoots and Species
Of the 1575 known bamboo species worldwide, 110 species are recorded to have edible shoots. Edible meaning a satisfactory to delicious taste, because even though some bamboo shoots are classified as edible, they must be carefully prepared and boiled before consuming!
Bamboo shoots may contain significant, potentially very toxic amounts of cyanogenic glycosides. Various reports even place bamboo shoots amongst the most potentially toxic plant materials, exceeding apricot, bitter almond stones and considerably exceeding that of cassava.
However, the cyanogenic glycoside in bamboo is in fact taxiphyllin. Taxiphyllin is unusual amongst other similar compounds in the sense that it degrades readily in boiling water. Thus boiling bamboo shoots or cooking bamboo shoots should remove any problem.
A Complete List of all known Edible Bamboo Species
|Dendrocalamus latiflorus 'Mei-Nung'||Good|
|Phyllostachys bambusoides f. shouzhu||Edible|
|Phyllostachys edulis f. edulis||Delicious|
|Phyllostachys glauca f. yunzhu||Edible|
|Phyllostachys glauca var. variabilis||Edible|
|Phyllostachys nidularia f. farcta||Edible|
|Phyllostachys nidularia f. mirabilis||Edible|
|Phyllostachys nidularia f. speciosa||Edible|
|Phyllostachys nidularia f. sulfurea||Edible|
|Phyllostachys nigra f. henonis||Delicious|
|Phyllostachys nuda 'Ink-finger'||Delicious|
|Phyllostachys praecox f. notata||Edible|
|Phyllostachys praecox f. viridisulcata||Delicious|
|Phyllostachys propinqua f. lanuginosa||Delicious|
|Phyllostachys purpurata 'Solidstem'||Edible|
|Phyilostachys sulphurea f. viridis||Good|
|Phyllostachys sulphurea f. laqueata||Good|
|Phyllostachys vivax 'Huangwenzhu'||Edible|
|Phyllostachys vivax f. aureocaulis||Edible|
Impact of Food-based Cyanide on Humans
Cyanide can and does cause significant health problems at sub-lethal levels. Some of the cassava-eaters in Africa have suffered harmful effects to the nervous system, including weakness of the fingers and toes, difficulty walking, dimness of vision, and deafness.
Some children who ate large quantities of apricot stones, which naturally contain cyanide as part of complex sugars, had rapid breathing, low blood pressure, headaches, and coma, and some died.
How to Detect Cyanide in Bamboo Shoots?
There are simple test kits to determine the presence of cyanide in bamboo shoots that can be used by an unskilled person for looking at cyanide levels in bamboo shoots, cassava roots and products, as well as other cyanogenic plant parts such as sorghum leaves, and flax seed meal.
The general principle is that a small sample of the plant or product is placed in a container with filter paper containing the required catalyst and a piece of picrate paper that reveals the amount of poison produced. The bottle is left overnight at room temperature. Next morning, when the breakdown to poisonous gas is completed, the color of the picrate paper indicates the level of toxicity.
How to Remove Cyanide in Bamboo Shoots?
The cyanogen in bamboo is taxiphyllin and therefore one of the few cyanogenic compounds that decompose quickly when placed in boiling water. Bamboo becomes edible because of this instability.
Boiling bamboo shoots for 20 minutes at 98°C removes nearly 70% of the HCN while all improvements on that (higher temperatures and longer intervals) remove progressively up to 96%. Thus even the highest quoted figures of cyanide found in bamboo shoots would be detoxified after cooking them for 2 hours.
Ask a Question or Share Your Comments:
Stephane from Guadua Bamboo wrote:
Just prepared my first bamboo dish from Gigantochloa atter shoots (Sweet bamboo). Yum!
Growing Edible Bamboo in Cold Areas
I live in Central Victoria Australia and want to start growing edible bamboo. Can you please supply me with a list, if any at all, of edible bamboos which will be happy in frosts of down to -7C? Actually this temperature is rare here but we got it once. Normally -5C is the coldest.
There certainly are bamboos which grow here. I have a list of 4 which I did believe were edible but none of them appear on your edible list:
- Phyllostachys Boryana
- Phyllostachys Nigra Boryana
- Bambusa Textilis
- Bambusa Multiplex Fernleaf
Are you please able to confirm with me; are any of the above 4 bamboo species edible and to what degree? If you can suggest a list of other bamboo types which are edible and can grow here, that would also be much appreciated. Many thanks for your help.
Stephane from Guadua Bamboo replied:
I found one source saying Bambusa textilis has edible shoots of average quality (not sure if it was reliable information though). For the other species I haven't found any indication that they are edible.
By any means Bambusa bamboos are tropical clumping bamboos whereas the genus Phyllostachys consists of temperate running bamboos. Therefore the latter would be the most recommended for your particular climate conditions.
Is Dendrocalamus Minor Amoenus Edible?
Are shoots of the Ghost bamboo (Dendrocalamus minor 'Amoenus') edible? When boiling bamboo shoots, how many water changes are required?
I harvested Gigantochloa atroviolacea shoots and had kind of a bitter almond cyanide compound odor which dissipated on boiling. What would be the recommended cooking times and water changes to optimize safety and minimize nutrient loss?
On steep rain forest slopes with clay soil in hurricane prone areas, what edible bamboo species would be better for erosion control and withstand uprooting of hurricane force winds? Guadua? I read it spreads out almost like a runner. Does Guadua produce edibility shoots?
Stephane from Guadua Bamboo replied:
I did not find any information saying Dendrocalamus minor is edible, nor is Guadua for that matter (with the exception of Guadua sarcocarpa).
Bamboo shoots need to be peeled and cooked before using. Do not eat bamboo shoots raw as they are bitter tasting and can be hard to digest. Trim the roots, peel the outer leaves (sheath leaves), and remove any tough flesh of the shoots before cooking. Tender leaves can be left attached and eaten. The shoots should be cut across the grain into one-eighth inch slices. If very tender, the shoot can be cut into any pattern.
Cook bamboo shoots in boiling water in an uncovered pan for 20 minutes. Leaving the pan uncovered allows the compounds that cause bitterness to dissipate into the air. If there is any bitter taste to the shoots after cooking, boil them in fresh water for 5 more minutes. Bamboo shoots can also be microwaved, in an uncovered shallow pan of water for four minutes. Bamboo shoots will still be crisp and crunchy after cooking.
Removing Toxicity from Bamboo Shoots
The usual practice to remove toxicity from bamboo shoots in the Philippines, is to remove the skin of the bamboo shoots and grate it in a course grater making strings about the size of spaghetti and boil it for about ten minutes. Then rinse the shoots in cold water and then it is ready for any dish.
Is this enough to remove any toxicity in Dendrocalamus asper shoots?
Stephane from Guadua Bamboo replied:
It should be, if it is common practice in the Phillipines. If you are unsure, however, you could always perform a Cyanide Test to determine the presence of cyanide in the bamboo shoots.
Bamboo Shoots in Chili Sauce
Some bamboo shoots in Laos are so good in taste that it doesn't need to be cooked before serving especially with locally prepared chili sauce.
Are Phyllostachys aureosulcata lama Shoots Edible?
I have lots of bamboo in my backyard and was wondering if you could eat the shoots. I think I have identified it as Phyllostachys aureosulcata lama. Pictures of shoots and leaves look the same.
Is Moso Bamboo Edible?
Is Moso Bamboo edible and does it contain cyanide at all? If a bamboo shoot which contains cyanide is eaten by an animal, say, a buffalo, would the animal die?
Yes, Moso Bamboo is highly edible.
Moso bamboo is known by the scientific names 'Phyllostachys heterocycla pubescens' and 'Phyllostachys edulis.' "Edulis" translates as "edible," which makes sense, given that Moso bamboo shoots are imported to the United States from China and "are likely the ones you are eating at your local Chinese restaurant," according to Bamboo Valley, a U.S. Bamboo grower.
The poisonous one that you are referring is "Cathariostachys madagascariensis" This bamboo species found in Madagascar. These bamboos contain cynaide in growing shoots.
So not only your animals, even you can eat Moso Bamboo (* particularly its bamboo shoot).
More Questions about Edible Bamboo Shoots
Are the outer leaves of the bamboo shoot edible, good for compost or bamboo broth, or useful for anything besides throwing away? It seems that the vast majority of the shoot is not good for eating.
I have several other questions as well. First, when I buy canned bamboo shoots, the canning liquid is both edible and tasty. Is this true of the water used for boiling (as demonstrated in the video), or must it be thrown out? Is it useful for anything else?
What is the best way to identify an edible variety of bamboo growing wild?
And what are the most commonly sold (in nurseries) types of edible bamboo (that is, which types of edible bamboo would one be likely to find for sale in a nursery)?
Thanks for a great article!
The bamboo shoot should be eaten when it's young. Old ones are not chewable. If you can still make a wound on the skin of the shoot with the nail of your small finger, it should be edible. Don't use the outer leave of the shoot. But leaves at the tip are soft and edible.
This answer is just a part of the question!