Harvesting And Preparing Bamboo For Use

What You'll Need
Pruning Saw
Cold Water

Bamboo plants are lovely to look at in the garden or yard, but they also can be used for many applications beyond decoration. In fact, a simple bamboo plant can provide many uses if harvested correctly. It takes some practice, knowledge and time, but the outcome is worth the effort.

Bamboos for Consumption

If you are planning to harvest bamboo to eat the shoots, it’s important to know that not all varieties of bamboo are suitable for consumption. The most common variety is Phyllostachys Pubescens.

Bamboos are typically harvested as shoots that are cone-shaped. Cut the shoots at the base with a pruning saw. Avoid cutting shoots that are soft. Look for shoots that are wide-based and solid to the touch.

Immediately after cutting, place the bamboo in a bucket of cold water. The shoots can last in the water for a few days as long as the water is changed daily. You can also store them in the refrigerator wrapped in a paper towel for up to 2 weeks or freeze them for a year.

When you are ready to eat the bamboo shoots, preparation is simple. Peel the husk and cut off the ends. Boil the shoots until tender, cut and enjoy in a stir fry, as a side dish or in many other recipes.

Bamboos for Other Use

Harvesting a bamboo plant for other use takes a little more effort. The uses of bamboo are varied and would be impossible to list as there are so many. Bamboo has been used to make:

  • Musical instruments
  • Toys
  • Fencing
  • Building materials
  • Boats
  • Furniture
  • Mats
  • Flooring
  • Clothing

Typical bamboo poles—which can be used in making fencing and furniture—can be harvested each year. This should occur during a warm season as moisture can cause rotting or molding.

The strongest poles come from plants that have 3 to 5-year old culms. Cut the culms at the ground using the pruning saw.

Curing Bamboo

Once you have cut the bamboo, it will need to be stored and cured for 6 to 12 weeks. To cure, you can tie the bamboo poles together to hang them or you can prop them vertically. It is important to protect the bamboo from moisture during this time or they can be rendered useless. Propping them on cement blocks can help.

Bamboo poles, once cured and dried, can be used for many projects indoors and outdoors. A bamboo fence or trellis can make a beautiful addition to your yard or garden. Small poles can be used as stakes for plants or gardens. You can use the poles as legs for a small side table or as the base of a chair. Many flutes are made of bamboo.

The best part of bamboo is that it is a self-renewing natural resource: both earth-friendly and one of the fastest-growing plants around.