Traditional Techniques for Processing Bamboo Shoots
Bamboo shoots are poisonous! Yes you heard it right. It contains cyanogenic glycosides called taxiphyllin; a type of hydrogen cyanide. It is also the same compound found in tapioca (cassava) leaves and its roots.
It is fatal and can kill humans and animals.
Having said so there are many varieties which have negligible levels of cyanide because of domestication and alteration in the genes for commercial cultivation.
This characteristic is a form of pest repellent for plants. Especially tender leaves and seeds are always poisons of trees, Bright colours.
If you are planning to harvest bamboo from your back yard then there is a high chance that you might run into toxic bamboo shoots.
Simple way to identify is if shoots are bitter (don’t try eating raw). Higher the pungent smell and bitter acidic taste; means high levels of cyanide.
Bamboo Shoots are Poisonous (Cyanide) however Bamboo Rice is totally safe
Having said that, bamboo rice is safe to eat, just like any other grain. However, since it is known to release heat it’s prudent to consume only during cooler months.
Shoots appear between June and September in India. Most number of shoots will be released from mid July to August.
Make sure the shoots are not less than 2 weeks old as after which it starts becoming hard and fibrous.
Once harvested, cut away all the leaves and make sure to scrub away the fine needles on the leaf. Needles can damage your stomach lining.
What remains is a triangular tuber which should be crunchy; easy to cut like a potato.
Cut it in small pieces. Smaller the better in order for the toxins to be released easily.
Now wash it thoroughly once and discard the water.
Next add enough water to submerge the pieces.
Add a table spoon of turmeric powder.
Depending on the bamboo variety, boil water for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
Discard the water completely, now to be on safer side add more fresh water and boil for few more minutes along with some sea salt. Discard this water too.
Make sure you do not cover the vessel because the cyanide needs to be released into the air and not trapped within.
Now you can add shoots instead of your regular potato in gravies or toss and fry with fresh herbs. You can also pickle bamboo shoots. Drying and fermenting is also practiced in North Eastern states.
Nutritional Health Benefits of Bamboo Shoots
Bamboo shoots are high in fibre; you should notice considerable stomach cleansing just like if you had consumed some laxative. This helps control blood sugar and regulates cholesterol levels. Digestion also improves multi folds. Bamboo shoots will be one of the best foods for colon cancer. Remember that all problems start from our stomach.
Bamboo shoots are loaded with phytosterols and stanols which are essential for human body. It is believed to athletic energy, youthful feeling, and longevity in life and considered to be the secret of regular consumers of the north-eastern states of India. Bamboo shoots were once considered a delicacy among tribals in many parts of India including Kerala.
Bamboo shoots also help darken your hair as per ayurvedic texts. It is still used by many ayurvedic hair oil manufactures.