In season: bamboo shoots

If your only experience with bamboo shoots is finding pale yellow thin slices of canned bamboo shoots in your favorite Chinese dishes, fresh bamboo shoots will be a revelation. Sweet and slightly crunchy, they resemble succulent artichoke hearts with no “canned” aftertaste.

Fresh bamboo shoots are available all year around at the Buford Highway Farmers Market and at stores specializing in Asian groceries. But for a limited time, local bamboo shoots are available fresh from Global Growers, a network of community farms and gardens with more than 250 international growers. This network has small and large garden patches all over metro Atlanta. The largest is Bamboo Creek Farm, a 14-acre site in Stone Mountain with two acres in vegetable production.

The bamboo that gives Bamboo Creek Farm its name is sending up its spring shoots in abundance. “We have a large ‘forest’ of bamboo. The bamboo is not being cultivated by one farmer in particular, but grows wild. Bamboo can be an invasive species, so harvesting the bamboo shoots is a part of our land management to keep the bamboo from overrunning the property,” said Karen Mann, Global Growers’ market manager.

Last year, Bamboo Creek Farm hosted friends of the farm to come pick their own. Netra Dhakal was one of those who harvested the farm’s bamboo shoots. She heard about the opportunity through a coworker at Refugee Family Services and went with friends to harvest as many as they could. “Once they’re cooked, you can save them in the refrigerator,” she said and she put her bamboo shoots into her favorite Nepali curry recipe.

If you’d like to harvest your own bamboo shoots this year, the farm is hosting “Pick-Your-Own Bamboo Shoot” Saturdays in May. You’ll be guided on harvesting the shoots and how to prepare and cook them. The cost is five dollars for all you can pick with an additional five dollar donation requested to help pay for MARTA passes for the farmers. For information: www.globalgrowers.net.

For those who prefer to buy their bamboo shoots already picked, Global Growers will be bringing them to the Clarkston Farmers Market on Sundays and offering them through their community supported agriculture program.

When you get your fresh shoots home, treat them as you would an artichoke. Slice a quarter inch or so off the bottom and peel off any tough outer leaves. Cook the whole shoot in boiling water until tender, which can take 20 minutes or more, depending on how old your shoots are. Once you can pierce the shoot with a skewer, drain and cool, then peel off the leaves to get to the heart of the shoot. You can serve it whole, or slice into bite-size pieces.

Fresh bamboo shoots are especially appreciated by Global Growers’ farmers from Burma, Bhutan, Nepal, Laos and Cambodia, said Susan Pavlin, director of Global Growers Network.

The Burmese farmers at Global Growers recommend serving slices as an appetizer, dipped into soy sauce, or stir-frying them with fish sauce. They also like the fresh shoots in soups made with pumpkin leaves, rice, young squash and cilantro or made with fish heads and roselle leaves.

Once you try fresh bamboo shoots, you’ll never eat those canned ones again.

At local farmers markets

Farmers market openings:

8 a.m. – noon. Saturday, May 4. Smyrna Fresh Produce Market, Smyrna. http://www.smyrnacity.com/index.aspx?page=15&recordid=3565

4 – 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 7. Whistle Stop Farmers Market, Norcross. www.norcrossfarmersmarket.com

Cooking demos:

4 – 8 p.m., Thursday, May 2. Chef Seth Freedman of Forage and Flame offers demos throughout the evening.

9 a.m. Saturday, May 4. Chef Todd Richards, The Shed, working with garlic. Morningside Farmers Market, Atlanta. www.morningsidemarket.com

10 a.m. Saturday, May 4. Chef Craig Richards, Ecco. Peachtree Road Farmers Market, Atlanta. www.peachtreeroadfarmersmarket.com

For sale

Vegetables and fruit: arugula, Asian greens, asparagus, beets, cabbage, carrots, celery, chard, collards, cucumbers, dandelion, English peas, fennel, green garlic, herbs, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mache, mushrooms, mustard greens, radishes, rutabaga, spinach, spring onions, strawberries, sugar snaps, tomatoes, turnips

From local reports

Hot and Sour Soup

Hands on: 15 minutes

Total time: 40 minutes

Makes: 6 cups

1 fresh bamboo shoot (about 3/4 pound)

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon white pepper

1/4 teaspoon chili oil

12 ounces brown beech mushrooms, or other mushrooms as desired

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut into thirds

2 tablespoons chopped green onions

Cut 1/4-inch from base of bamboo shoot and remove any loose outer leaves. In a large saucepan, cover bamboo shoot with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook bamboo shoot for 20 minutes or until you are able to pierce bamboo shoot with a skewer. Allow to cool in cooking water. If not using immediately, refrigerate for up to one week.

In a large saucepan, bring chicken broth to a boil. Add lemon juice, soy sauce, white pepper and chili oil. Taste for seasoning. Reduce to a simmer and add mushrooms. Cook 2 minutes. In a small bowl, stir water and cornstarch together and add to soup. Cook 1 minute.

Remove bamboo shoot from cooking water. Remove outer leaves until you get to the solid core of the shoot. Cut shoot in half lengthwise and then cut into bite-size slices. Add to soup. Add shrimp and green onions and simmer soup 3 minutes or until shrimp turns opaque. Serve immediately.

Per 1-cup serving: 118 calories (percent of calories from fat, 18), 16 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 2 grams fat (trace saturated fat), 58 milligrams cholesterol, 181 milligrams sodium.

About the Author