Friday, May 16, 2014

Bamboo Adventure

A versatile plant, tender bamboo shoots make a delicious pickle

After my friends tasted bamboo pickles last year, we made plans to gather this intriguing ingredient in the spring. Bamboo grows well in North Carolina's temperate climate, although it can be invasive, so it is good to have a friend who is willing to share the bounty.  Fortunately, my friend, Louise, agreed to allow us to harvest bamboo from her property and last week, longtime buddies, Kim Barnhardt and Karen Glasscock, met me on a hot spring day to collect the raw basis for this delicious recipe.

An incredibly versatile perennial plant, bamboo makes strong garden trellises, fishing poles, flooring and furniture and is an effective crop to control soil erosion.  Tender shoots are delicious edibles, but rapidly mature, so it is necessary to act quickly in order to enjoy this seasonal treat.  Armed with gloves, pruning shears and a wicked machete, our group harvested emerging shoots for pickling and several long poles for my friends to use in their gardens. 

Karen wields the machete to harvest a tender shoot

Many years ago, my family discovered the delicious taste of bamboo pickles when we visited Whippoorwill Academy and Village, in Wilkes County.  Created by Edith Ferguson Carter, artist, historian, land preservationist, writer and immediate friend to all who met her, Whippoorwill boasts several historical buildings that Edith moved to her family farm, including a chapel, art gallery, Tom Dooley museum, Daniel Boone replica cabin, jailhouse and many more interesting structures.  Often, Edith could be found at the Village, digging footings for another building or giving tours to some of the thousands of school children who visited there.  A woman of boundless energy, Edith passed away on May 12, 2014, and her death is a loss to us all.  Fortunately, her daughter, Margaret Carter Martine, shared Edith's mother's recipe for pickled bamboo with me and as I made the pickles this year, I fondly recalled happy times spent with Edith and her family.  
Sorted by size, these bamboo shoots will yield thousands of pickles
After a lesson in how to remove the outer leaves and quickly slice each section into rings, Kim and Karen were ready to load their vehicles with bamboo and head to their respective kitchens.
Kim demonstrates slicing a bamboo section
Karen, Kim and I with our bamboo harvest
To read more about our bamboo adventure or if you are interested in instructions for making your own bamboo pickles, visit  for the recipe.