Bamboo shoots are a traditional ingredient used in Asian cooking. Usually canned and vacuum sealed, this crunchy and juicy plant root is available year-round in the supermarket. However, fresh bamboo shoots in spring make a world of difference to our taste buds.
Fresh bamboo shoots are usually harvested in spring and winter. This is the best time to spot fresh spring bamboo shoots at your neighborhood produce market. The tender and young shoots are dug out from the ground at about two weeks old soon after they break through the soil.
Unlike canned shoots, fresh bamboo shoots have a natural bitter taste and must be boiled in water to release the bitterness before they can be used as an ingredient. However, the ivory-colored fresh shoots are crispier, much more refreshing and bear a slightly grassy flavor (Bamboo is actually a member of the grass family) that cannot be vacuum sealed or canned.
To prepare the shoots, cut off the root ends and remove the tough layers. Slice the bamboo shoot into pieces and simmer them in boiling water for about 20 minutes, depending on size of the slices. If they still taste bitter, consider cooking them for a few more minutes.
When shopping, choose bamboo shoots which are stout and light yellow in color so they will be tender enough to taste. A simple and fast way to enjoy fresh bamboo shoots is to stir fry them with oil and season with garlic and soy sauce.
When produce is available year-round at Beijing’s farms and greenhouses, it’s easy to forget that each fruit and vegetable has its own sowing and harvesting cycle. Eating seasonally not only ensures the best-quality produce, it also helps maintain our body’s yin and yang balance, according to TCM. The Seasonal Eats series on beijingkids introduces foods best eaten this month.
Photos: courtesy of mathatelle, beautifulcataya and SpirosK photography (Flickr).