Harvesting Bamboo Shoots

The bamboo shoot is a highly prized vegetable in Asian cuisine and ranked among the five most popular healthcare foods in the world by some sources. It is know as the King of the Forest Vegetables and has been eaten for over 2500 years.

Depending upon species and growing conditions, bamboo shoots typically emerge from early spring to the middle of the growing season. They can be abundant but need to be caught early to avoid bitterness. It is best to harvest the bamboo shoots when they are only a foot or so tall. Bamboo is easy to harvest and prepare. Also, if you are worried about bamboo spreading, learning how to eat the new shoots is a great and nutritious way to contain bamboo. These simple steps below will demonstrate the ease of harvest and preparation of bamboo shoots.

Looking for which species can be eaten? Click here to find our edible species list!

  • Remove from ground

    Place the spade close to the edge of the shoot. Push down and wedge the shoot from the soil. This should be fairly easy, if not try cutting higher on the shoot for softer material.

  • Clean and trim

    Once you have separated the shoot from the rhizome it will come free at the base. The bottom can be trimmed. Shake and rinse excess soil from the bamboo shoot.

  • Peel back layers

    After you have collected your shoots peel back the outside sheath (outside leafy covering) and expose the inside layer, similar to an onion.

  • Chop or slice

    The shoots can be chopped and sliced in many ways depending upon recipe. This example shows a vertical slice.

  • Sliced shoots

    Sliced shoots from the ground to the bowl. These slices are ready to boil. Vertical slices are most common.

  • Chopped shoots

    Larger cuts will take much more time to boil, better for stews or other.

Small bamboo shoots boiling in a pot of water

Cooking Bamboo Shoots

Once the bamboo shoots have been extracted and prepared, they need to be boiled. A recommended boil time of 20 minutes to 2 hours is required to soften the shoots and remove cyanogenic glycosides. A canning process can also remove the toxins. Pickled or canned bamboo is also served as a condiment. For picked bamboo, the interior most part of the shoot is utilized.

Bamboo pairs well with most any protein. Many traditional dishes incorporate it with pork, duck and shrimp. It is very similar in texture and cooking characteristics to asparagus. It can be a very interesting substitute to spice up any asparagus based dish.