Some of you reading this might have a bamboo cooking utensil in your house right now, or maybe you purchased a bamboo toothbrush to see what the hype was all about. But did you know you could eat it for survival?
Yes, bamboo shoots can be eaten for survival. However, although edible, bamboo does contain natural toxins that may affect you if eaten in large quantities.
Bamboo is among some of the strongest natural resources used today and eating it can help keep you alive.
If you live in a tropical to temperate location, or say you are visiting Florida for a nice vacation, camping trip when SHTF, this plant just might help you out.
What Are Bamboo Shoots?
You may be familiar with bamboo, but you might not know exactly what the shoot is, or what it looks like.
Not only do you need to know what a bamboo shoot is and looks like, but you also need to know which species of bamboo it is.
There are over 1500 species of bamboo and only around 110 of those species are edible.
Thankfully, the most widespread bamboo species you are likely to come across are edible. Popular varieties of bamboo that you can eat include:
- Common Bamboo
- Incense Bamboo
- Golden Bamboo
- Yellow Groove Bamboo
- Slender Crookstem
- Black Bamboo
- Polymorph Bamboo
Identifying Wild Bamboo Shoots
Try to picture abnormally large asparagus, and you almost have the correct visual. The shoots range in color from light green to purple depending on age and species.
Keep in mind, bamboo is grass, not a tree, and belongs to the Poaceae family.
Bamboo shoots will grow in tropical to temperate locations where the atmosphere is warm and moist.
They will also grow in groves so where you see one, there should be plenty more where it came from.
In the United States, bamboo shoot harvesting is limited to the spring, but the nearer you are to the equator the longer the season.
Traditionally, you can find bamboo in the majority of Asian countries, such as Japan, China, and Thailand. Additionally, you will find them in Latin America and even Africa.
How To Harvest Bamboo Shoots
When you’re 100% confident you have found an edible bamboo grove, look for the stalks that are 6-10 inches tall. Clear dirt from the base 1 inch down, and snap the stalk by bending it low at the base.
If you’re unable to snap the stalk, use a knife. Collect only what you need from areas with heavy growth.
To process, cut off the bottom, and take off the outer sheath and any colored part of the stalk. Use your knife to shave off a layer just as you would a potato until you have a cream-colored horn-shaped stalk.
Should You Eat Bamboo Shoots Raw or Cooked?
Eating bamboo shoots raw is a great way to get quick nutrients.
When eaten in large quantities on an empty stomach, the natural cyanide glycosides found in bamboo may cause stomach pains, vomiting from both ends, or in the worst case, coma.
This is due to the compounds inside being mildly toxic to us. You might pick a softer shoot with a sweet taste, but you might pick a harder stalk and be surprised with a bitter taste.
Opting for cooked shoots is a great way to avoid any potential health risks or unwanted bitterness. By cooking or boiling them first, you remove all of the harmful toxins and unwanted bitterness.
The major downside to cooking the shoots before eating them would mostly be the time-consuming process and potential nutrient loss.
What Are The Benefits of Eating Bamboo Shoots?
When you are in a survival situation, eating bamboo shoots is sure to raise your spirits high and give you that feeling of having food in your stomach.
Also, being occupied with searching for a bamboo grove and the rush of adrenaline and excitement when you find one is also a benefit to your mental health and productivity.
After you’ve had the sweet (or bitter) taste of bamboo victory, the inspiration to keep surviving flows with the nutrients the shoots just provided you.
The energy you’ll have will hopefully help you find the ease you need to work your way out of a tight situation.
What Nutrients Do Bamboo Shoots Provide?
Bamboo is ranked high in most nutritional food lists considering they contain a significant amount of overall nutrients in just one cup including:
|Amount per cup of bamboo shoots
All this and more are on this seemingly never-ending list, according to Eco-Farming Daily.
On top of nutrient value, they are very low in fat, making them a top ingredient for healthy food dishes.
Can Bamboo Shoots Make You Sick?
As healthy as the shoots are, they still pose a minor health risk when they are processed or cooked improperly, and being in a survival situation is when this risk has a higher chance of occurring.
Your mental state when you’re in survival mode is likely to rush through with unclear thoughts focusing on one task and that is to eat, most likely due to an empty stomach.
Eating large quantities of raw, unprocessed, or improperly cooked bamboo shoots, especially on an empty stomach, may cause unpleasant reactions due to natural toxins called cyanide glycosides.
Let’s Talk About Cyanogenic Glycosides
Plants have a natural self-defense system that comes in the form of a phytotoxin or chemical toxin known as cyanogenic glycosides.
Of the cyanogenic glycosides in bamboo shoots, taxiphyllin is the most prevalent, and luckily the easiest to reduce simply by cutting the bamboo shoot into pieces and boiling it in water for 20 minutes.
Bamboo shoots aren’t the only cyanogenic edible plant, there are also almonds, apples, and chickpeas to name a few. Properly processing these plants is what makes them safe to eat.
Tips on Preparing Bamboo Shoots
So, you have your bamboo shoots harvested and processed, now what? According to the calculations above, you can eat only a few raw but if you want to eat a large number of bamboo shoots safely you need to cook them.
Cooking removes the cyanide within the bamboo to make it safe for us to eat.
Slice the bamboo shoot down the center from tip to base and cut each half into pieces, now you can boil them for 20 minutes. If they remain bitter boil them again in fresh water.
You can then eat them as they are after boiled or add them to a broth, roast them over the fire or even dry them out.
Bamboo Shoots FAQ
We all have a lot of questions that need answers for us to feel comfortable even considering eating wild bamboo.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to eating bamboo shoots out in the wild.
Are bamboo shoots healthy?
Yes, bamboo shoots are extremely healthy as long as they are prepared properly to remove the cyanide content.
Are bamboo shoots easy to digest?
Bamboo shoots when cooked are tender and easy to digest however, bamboo shoots eaten raw are more fibrous and woody.
How many calories are in a bamboo shoot?
100 g of raw bamboo shoots contains 27 calories. 100 g of boiled bamboo shoots contains 12 calories.
Can I eat bamboo shoots I find in the wild?
Yes, as long as you properly identify and prepare them you can eat them in the wild.