Bamboo cultivation for tender shoots

Bamboo is a perennial grass. It is categorized under the same family of grass as wheat, rice and many other monocots. Bamboo is an evergreen plant in the true grass family with a few of its members growing as high as 100 feet tall. They are sometimes referred to as “bamboo trees”

Bamboo saplings
Bamboo saplings in the Kerala Forest Research Institute

Bamboo is the fastest growing plant in the world. Their growth is clearly evident in some species which grow as much as 3 feet in one day.

Their use in daily Indian life is in some measure surprisingly sparse compared to the other Asian societies. Bamboo shoots, for instance, a delicacy in many East-Asian countries, is barely found in any Indian dishes. Their utility being limited to tools and furniture is truly a shameful instance of under-appreciation of such a versatile plant. The tribes in India, who are the true masters of this domain have a lot to teach us.

Over the last few years I have been trying to learn first-hand about this amazing plant.

Harvested bambo shoots
Freshly harvested bamboo shoots before de-shelling.

Dr. EM Muralidharan from KFRI Peechi forest research based in Thrissur, Kerala, guided me with his invaluable insights in selecting the right species for edible bamboo shoot cultivation. He is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to bamboos. With his advice on choosing the right location, soil condition, watering patterns, tracking key growth indicators, etc. we were able to plant 120 saplings of which 50 is brandisii, 50 asper and the remaining balcooa, giganteus and vulgaris in 1 acre of land. They are now ripe for harvesting.

With the hope that my learning may motivate some among you to get acquainted with this wonder of nature, here are a few guidelines if and when you do decide to plant one of you own:

  • Supply lots of biomass and humus in the initial phase, even supplementing with a substantial amount of nitrogen to be on the safe side.
  • Irrigate the bamboo for 1 year after the monsoon.
  • De-weed around so nothing else competes with bamboo. After 2 years you may leave them unattended.
  • Create trenches on all the side if you need to restrict their growth to a certain area.

I have also planted a few other bamboos in some other more modest sized plots. At present I have 15 varieties of bamboo of which melocanna baccifera (Mulli Bamboo / North east / walking bamboo) is the best for shoots in my opinion. I acquired the seed from the tribal hinterlands of Tripura. The seed is almost the size of an avocado and looks similar too.

Please watch the below video about our last 3 years journey. Don’t forget to subscribe to the channel and click on the bell icon.

Bamboo Shoot Cultivation | Last 3 years journey from sapling to Harvest

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