Remember this guy from less than a fortnight ago?
Well, he’s grown in the last thirteen days.
The grove is well-established, deserves to be called a forest. So much of its development over twenty years has been through long periods of drought and neglect. Because of its ability to survive and thrive from seedling stage, I’ve long suspected that it really, really belongs here, along the hills between Divide and Pacific. You may need sweet, tallow-wood country – retired dairy country like mine – but that’s available. Contrary to a familiar prejudice, it won’t “get out of control”; but moso is certainly a hungry, ambitious migrant – frustrated in most of the world – that will seize its opportunity in this region.
This isn’t the biggest shoot, but, since I took the photo, it’s bigger still round the base.
Another perspective on another giant, just a few days old. This one is now enormous around the base, and kind of scares me.
The ideal conditions have not produced more shoots, just big ones, which is an ideal development. My guess is that moso here in Dondingalong can achieve its global maximum size. Hundred foot poles are not out of the question. I have a few patches of red soil where that could come about.
If you look to the right you’ll see a link to a German web site where Europeans who love moso pop in to shriek their delight over a new culm of just a few metres. You might ask: if something can inspire people in a such a pitifully reduced form, how is it possible that, in a place where it can reach a full and stupendous potential, it is little thought about?
There’s no answer to that.
Some of these poles will have trouble with high winds in the vulnerable week when they are at full height but have not branched. The south slope that has been a good, cool nursery to moso is a little too exposed to freak winds now that the culms are towering. Until the grove achieves critical mass, and has poles of equal size to support one another, there will be some breakages.
But what can you say about a species that comes out of the ground in spring, grows to full height in seven weeks, and is ready to be used as a premium timber within five years? A good deal, Australia?
Note these black, plasticky-looking things atop my computer.
In a future post, I’ll talk about my favourite use for moso bamboo. I’ll be talking about…
Moso is the bamboo of commerce. The clothing, towels, bedding, flooring, benchtops, cutting boards…it’s usually moso, grown and processed in China. It is also used for furniture, fencing and timber, but other species are used as well for these purposes.
Because I’ve wanted lots of it, I’ve seldom cut or sold my moso. The main use for me has been shoots, every spring.
Now the grove is more of a forest, and I have many good poles of the right age for cutting. (Five years from the ground to harvest is a good deal for timber. I could talk about sustainability, but it’s not my kind of language.)
Still don’t want to start mass harvesting for timber, but I’m experimenting with various uses and effects.
Decor is one thing. People like bamboo as a dramatic indoor or patio showpiece, often in a vase.
Here are some pieces of five year culms treated in various ways: freshly cut and briefly cool-roasted, freshly cut and cool-roasted for hours, cured and cool-roasted for hours etc…and beneath is a piece of shade-dried bamboo with no treatments at all. The variations are infinite, but a low roasting temp and gradual cooling would seem to be essential. (Moso is not inclined to breakage, but it can split.)
They say the right degree of firing can make a piece strong enough for a bicycle frame. I’m guessing it would be best to use a fresh cut piece and roast it very slowly, very precisely, with very gradual cooling.
That’s just a guess.
Surprisingly, I know so little about moso beyond my precious acres of it. My undies are made of moso. How on earth do they do that?
Mostly, I just like looking at moso.
Here’s my bomby old front deck, looking south-west.
And from that deck I can see the western corner of my grove. It looks like a thicket of black bamboo, only not black. The first pioneers usually appear in this corner each year, but the growth is unimpressive because my moso doesn’t like hot ground with little cover.
This is not what moso is, or not what it becomes in the ideal biome, such as here in eastern NSW. Its destiny is to be forest, with a fine mat underfoot, and wide spaces between soaring culms.
Forget thickets. This is moso.
Where it has moved into a new area, there is still something of a tangle, but, within a couple of years, this…
…will look like this.
So, forget thickets, tangles, swamps, snakes, mozzies.
Think: open and airy forests across the hills.
Rain has come again. Extraordinary season. There is so much happening in the grove, and it’s still only September.
Bamboo shoots can be combined with rice in many ways: the combination is a classic across Asia.
The pre-cooked shoots, in fairly fine slices, can be combined with raw rice and both ingredients can steam together till the rice is done. Lately I’ve been using brown rice, and flavouring very simply with turmeric. Get your shoots and ready them in the way shown previously on this blog.
The cooked shoots are added to raw brown rice and pressure cooked by absorption method. The result is good enough to eat alone, can be topped with cheese and olive oil, topped with sesame oil and coarse salt, or topped with any of the usual rice flavourings, such as furikake.
Make lots, because excess can be used in many ways that aren’t even Asian. Here I’ve beaten a big duck egg, minced onion and some nutmeg into the leftover shoots-rice, stirred in some parmesan, topped the lot with Colby cheese, and baked as a gratin.
More leftovers? It’s a pity that this batch was cooked with turmeric and not saffron, because on day three we have a snapper from one of the angling neighbours, and the weather is suddenly cold. Fish soup ingredients!
It might seem a waste to turn snapper into soup, but its broth is superb, and lately I’ve had plenty of it grilled.
The whole snapper is poached very, very gently in stock, then taken out to cool a little. A soffritto of minced soup veg is fried up in olive oil and added to the stock with our bamboo shoots rice. Cook thick. Before serving, the flaked fish is added back to the soup. This recipe would be soupier and better with bamboo shoots and white rice, especially if cooked with saffron. Still good.
The point is, once you understand prep and pre-cooking of shoots, you can use them for many European style dishes. Of course, it helps to have your own bamboo forest.
Step over to the grove. The newer culms are still green, the older ones are now dropping leaves. The difference this year is that, in a grove that’s approaching maturity and having an ideal season, the look is one of autumn splendour rather than exhaustion. This is a new experience, after twenty years of cultivation, and a very exciting experience.
One day there is this burnished yellow mat from all the new litter…
Then the horror…
As I’ve mentioned before, Bamboo Autumn is the expression for, well, Bamboo Spring. Now that the grove is looking more like a forest, the effect of the leaf-fall is even more autumnal. For the first time since I began twenty years ago, I’m able to look across a golden floor, especially in the mornings.
The boom season has stalled just a little because of a week’s dry heat, but, as predicted, the spring equinox is forcing up new adult sized shoots through the mat. This is what we wait for. This is the part of bamboo cultivation that thrills.
Like a chick hatching, isn’t it?