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Bamboo shoots Nutrition facts

Crisp and chewy bamboo shoots, (sun jian - 笋尖) are freshly erupting edible culms of the bamboo plant. Young, tender shoots are a seasonal delicacy in China, Taiwan, Japan, and other Southeast Asian countries. Several species of bamboo plants are employed in bamboo shoot farming.

bamboo shoot
Young shoot erupting from the soil.
(Photo courtesy: Joi)

The bamboo plant is a member of the grass family. After about 3-4 years of implantation, a new shoot arises from the underneath root system which is then gathered, and eaten as a vegetable. Some of the important edible species widely prevalent are Bambusa bambos, Bambusa tulda, B. polymorpha, B. balcooa, Dendrocalamus hemiltonii, D. gigentius, and Melocanna baccifera.

Bamboo shoots begin to appear above the ground surface in different seasons depending upon the species. When a young, cone-shaped new shoot just appears above the soil surface, it is severed from its root attachment, generally using a spade.

On its exterior, the shoot features several layers of a sturdy casing of leaves, firmly wrapped around its central cream-white heart (meat). This prized meat is the much sought-after portion of the bamboo shoot. It is crunchy in texture and has a mild yet distinctive flavor. Once boiled and cured, however, it acquires almost a neutral taste.

Health benefits of Bamboo shoots

  1. Bamboo shoots are one of the very low-calorie vegetables. 100 grams of fresh cane holds only 27 calories.

  2. Bamboo heart is composed of moderate levels of soluble and non-soluble (NSP- non-starch carbohydrates) dietary fiber. 100 g of fresh shoots provide 2.2 grams of roughage. Dietary fiber helps control constipation conditions and decreases bad (LDL) cholesterol levels by binding to it in the intestines.

  3. Studies suggest that a high-fiber diet can help cut down colon-rectal cancer risk by protecting digestive organs from the toxic compounds in the food.

  4. Bamboo hearts are also rich in the B-complex group of vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), and pantothenic acid. These vitamins are essential for optimum cellular enzymatic, and metabolic functions.

  5. Bamboo is plentiful in minerals, especially manganese and copper. Also, it has small amounts of essential minerals and electrolytes such as calcium, iron, and phosphorus. Manganese is utilized by the human body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Copper is employed in the production of red blood cells. Iron is essential for cellular respiration and red blood cell formation.

  6. Bamboo shoots compose excellent levels of potassium. 100 grams of fresh shoot holds 533 mg or 11% of the daily required levels of potassium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure by countering the effects of sodium.

See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:

Bamboo shoots, raw, Nutrition value per 100 g. ORAC value 2150, (Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)

Principle Nutrient Value Percent of RDA
Energy 27 Kcal 1.4%
Carbohydrates 5.2 g 4%
Protein 2.60 g 5%
Total Fat 0.3 g 1%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 2.2 g 6%
Folates 7 µg 2%
Niacin 0.600 mg 4%
Pantothenic acid 0.161 mg 3%
Pyridoxine 0.240 mg 18%
Riboflavin 0.070 mg 5%
Thiamin 0.150 mg 12%
Vitamin C 4 mg 7%
Vitamin A 20 IU <1%
Vitamin E 1 mg 7%
Vitamin K 0 µg 0%
Sodium 4 mg <1%
Potassium 533 mg 11%
Calcium 13 mg 1.5%
Copper 0.190 mg 21%
Iron 0.50 mg 6%
Magnesium 3 mg <1%
Manganese 0.262 mg 11%
Phosphorus 59 mg 8%
Selenium 0.8 µg 1.5%
Zinc 1.10 mg 10%
Carotene-ß 12 µg
Carotene-a 0 µg
Lutein-zeaxanthin 0 µg

Selection and storage

Fresh bamboo shoots are a seasonal delicacy. In the USA, fresh shoots especially frozen, are imported from China, Thailand, and Taiwan. However, vacuum-packed or canned bamboo shoots from supermarkets can be available around the year.

If you are buying a fresh shoot, look for the one harvested recently. Choose firm and heavy sprouts with a wide base. Avoid soft, dry roots. Take a close look at the base of the shoot whether it is turning green. Greenish discoloration indicates exposure to sunlight for a long time, over-mature, and can be bitter in taste.

At home, fresh bamboo should be eaten soon after their harvest to relish their flavor better. Otherwise, keep unpeeled, the whole bamboo shoot wrapped in a paper towel and placed inside the refrigerator where it can stay fresh for 1-2 days.

Preparation and serving methods

Raw bamboo shoots from the market should be processed further before adding them to cooking. This whole process involves two steps; peeling its outer tough sheaths and detoxification of its inner meat to remove bitter compounds. One easier method to peel bamboo shoots is to cut them lengthwise into halves. Then peel its outer leaves starting from the base and working towards its tip. Trim away any tough portion at the base. Then dice the shoot to your desired sizes. Dip the cubes in a bowl of cold water to avoid them turning brown.

Treating the processed cubes in boiling water detoxifies them. Bamboo shoots contain taxiphyllin, a cyanogenic glycoside, which should be removed before use in cooking. Boiling in a bowl of uncovered salted water for about 20-25 minutes removes most of these glycosides. Discard this water and boil again in fresh water for another 5-10 minutes to ensure complete safety.

Here are some serving tips:

Bamboo shoot ricipes. (Photo courtesy: tuey & elsie-hui)
  • Bamboo shoots enjoyed sautéed, stir-fried, or mixed with vegetables, beans, poultry, or seafood.

  • In Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam bamboo shoots are seasonal delicacies. Varieties of mouth-watering recipes of tender bamboo culms prepared in traditional methods.

  • In Thailand, pickled bamboo shoots (sour bamboo shoot pickle) are made and used in delicious curries with vegetables and shrimp. Serve this curry along with steamed rice.

  • In China, tender shoots feature in soups, noodles, salads and stir-fries.

  • The shoots called as takenoko are one of the spring specials in Japan. Finely sliced shoots added to salads, stir-fries, or rice (takenoko gohan).

Safety profile

In general, boiled bamboo shoots are safe to eat, and allergic reactions are quite rare to occur. Bamboo shoots contain taxiphyllin, a cyanogenic glycoside. Cyanide alkaloids inhibit cytochrome oxidase, an essential enzyme in cellular respiration. Over-matured shoots and certain varieties of bamboo possess a higher concentration of these glycosides than young, tender, and some sweet varieties. Treating the tender shoot in boiling water disintegrates these toxic compounds instantly. (Medical disclaimer).

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Further Reading:

  1. USDA National Nutrient Database.

  2. Cooperative Extension- Washington University.

  3. Cyanogenic glycosides in cassava and Bamboo-A human Risk Assessment.

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