Here’s a picture of my grove which shows how it dips neatly under the power lines. (This is the only neatness I have ever achieved, so please gush.)
You can shape and control a number of ways. My way is simply to harvest and eat new shoots. After shooting time, there’s no control needed. But one must be prompt at shooting time.
Here is a picture of the area under the lines, taken inside the grove.
All new shoots have been removed for some years now, within a strip extending some metres outside the power lines. Juvenile culms, which were never tall enough to reach anywhere near the lines, have been left in place. This gives the grove stability and keeps down unwanted species. The electricity people don’t like this, because, like most people, they are convinced that bamboo culms continue to grow after their first seven weeks of existence. It’s a hard thing to grasp: that a shoot a few inches tall will tower up to eighty feet within weeks, while a culm from a previous season will never grow by a fraction of an inch – ever!
Note how the grove in the top picture has a burnished-yellow appearance. That’s because we are now in bamboo autumn, which is spring, when moso puts all its energy into new shoots and withdraws it from everywhere else. Here on the hot western edge you can see the yellowing near one of this year’s first shoots.
Because this season is so good, the leaf-loss and discolouring are not as extreme as in past years. A few metres into the grove, the bamboo still looks quite fresh.
There’s still plenty of shade under the canopy in the centre.
Bamboo shoots are supposed to have health benefits because, among other things, they contain woody substances called lignins which are lacking in the diet of modern humans. Really, I wouldn’t know. But one great quality of shoots is their gentle but powerful effect upon the bowels. I don’t normally have problems in this regard, but when I eat moso shoots I definitely don’t have problems.
A couple of dozen more shoots were harvested yesterday. Rather than freeze these, I decided to make a traditional English pickle, substituting bamboo for cauliflower.
I’ve tried to ferment bamboo shoots to make a kind of Asian pickle, but the results were foul. I used a kimchee-style treatement, but what works for cabbage doesn’t work for moso shoots.
For classical English piccalilli, it’s normal to soak the vegetables raw in a strong brine before cooking them a little with the floury pickling sauce. Obviously, moso bamboo shoots must always be blanched before anything else is done with them, so I briefly pressure-cooked them in unsalted water with some bamboo charcoal before placing them in brine with the raw onions. Also, because bamboo is very absorptive, whether as charcoal or shoots, I used a lighter brine.
Apart from that, procedure was as usual. The brine is ditched and replaced with vinegar, to the level of the shoots in the pot. A paste of flour, turmeric and mustard is added, as well as sugar and some ginger. The whole is cooked gently for half an hour, till a saucey consistency is achieved, with no floury taste.
And it’s delicious!
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