Today, we delve into one of the most versatile plants on earth. Some species thrive in moist tropical climates, other species grow in cool mountainous regions. Globally, this plant is responsible for over 50 billion dollars of revenue annually.
Were you able to guess it?
It’s one of the fastest growing plants in the world. I bet your getting the idea now…
That’s right, it’s bamboo!
Bamboo is a woody, evergreen perennial. Identifies as a member of the grass family. There are over a thousand different species around the world, some sprawl 3 feet per day.
This resilient grass can be classified by two types, running and clumping bamboo. Runners send new “roots” under the soil to essentially start a new plant. Clumpers have a clustered appearance, with an expanding base as it develops new growth.
Bamboo is an abundant resource with a myriad of benefits. A list that includes (but is certainly not limited to).
- Used in all aspects of construction. From flooring to siding to roofing. Reliable enough to build bridges and durable enough to use for plumbing.
- This versatile grass is strong and eco-friendly. Great for all kinds of construction equipment, like scaffolding, ladders and hand tools. It’s light weight and flexibility make it earthquake resistant.
- Humans and animals have been consuming bamboo for thousands of years. Super healthy choice but not all species are safe for human consumption. Packed with fiber and potassium but low on fat and calories.
- The edible portion is called a shoot or sprout. Sprouts appear when a mature bamboo plants branches out, to form new canes. It’s offspring, if you will.
- To harvest, chop off the top of the cane, peel back the outer layers and expose the soft insides. Eating it raw is not recommended. It contains toxins that should be boiled away before becoming palatable.
- Many kitchen utensils can be made from bamboo. In addition to plates and cutlery we often find cutting boards made from bamboo. Great on knives as they won’t dull blades as quickly as other materials.
- A great DIY project involves cutting a short section of bamboo and using it as a cup. It can even be placed gently in a fire and it will allow for water to boil. This trick could just save your life some day!
- Makes numerous different textiles. Common items such as shirts, socks and pants can be manufactured. Materials such as yarn and cloth are made. In addition, bamboo makes for a great bedding material. Highly breathable, super comfy and very durable make it an increasingly popular night time choice.
- The list could go on and on for crafts. Some of the more creative ideas include jewelry, furniture, baskets, traps, fencing, musical instruments, art work, boats, fishing rods and weaponry.
Every part of the bamboo plant can be useful. The poles (aka “culms”) are great for architectural purposes.
- The shoots are a tasty snack for humans.
- The leaves are critical for animals like panda, gorilla and elephants.
- The branches are used to make all sorts of different crafts (as we discussed earlier).
Bamboo has established a prominent role in many Asian cultures. China and Japan pointedly have deep rooted connections. China has the largest bamboo forest in the world, making the crop a valuable commodity. It symbolizes virtue and longevity. Even believed to have spiritual healing powers as it clears away negative energy.
Bamboo is critical to the well-being of our planet. It can grow in many different places and emits larger volumes of oxygen, when compared to forests with an equivalent amount of dissimilar trees. This helps keep the delicate balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in our atmosphere at healthy levels.
Another role for bamboo is the ability to provide erosion control. The roots make the ground strong and erosion is nearly impossible in densely packed areas. This could have a critical impact on shorelines, as our oceans continue to rise from global warming.
Many organizations are undertaking Bamboo planting projects. Nestle, for example, has made efforts to plant and grow millions of new bamboo clumps across the Philippines. Hopefully this trend continues with more major corporations joining the restoration efforts.
Before we close our chapter on bamboo, a few fun facts to leave us salivating for me.
Bamboo is virtually fire-proof. It contains large amounts of silicate acid, which keeps the bamboo operable, even in a fire. Only you (and bamboo) can prevent forest fires!
Men and women alike have reaped rewards from bamboo. It’s much lighter than it’s counterpart wooden materials. It is easy for women to transport due to the weight, or lack there of. The premise of emboldening women is paramount in societies around the world. Thanks to bamboo, we will continue to push that narrative.
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