Bamboo is found in a variety of climates, ranging from hot tropics to cold mountains in East Asia, Northern Australia, India and the Himalayas. Bamboo is broadly grouped into ‘clumping’ or ‘running’ species according to its growth habit. Clumping species have short rhizomes or underground stems (referred to botanically as sympodial); whereas running species have long rhizomes (referred to as monopodial).
The clumping types are more adapted to subtropical and tropical climates and produce tightly packed, compact and larger shoots, up to 5kg while the running types are more suited to cooler climates and produce smaller shoots, usually around 1.5kg. The clumping species suitably adapted for production in Australian include Bambusa oldhamii, Dendrocalamus asper and Dendrocalamus latiflorus. Phyllostachys pubescens is a running species suitable for edible shoot production in Australia. Many of the running varieties are regarded as a weed in Australia and are banned.
Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on earth, depending on soil, climate and species. Harvesting of bamboo for shoots can start 3–5 years after establishing a plantation. Bamboo is a shallow-rooted plant and has a high demand for water (greater than 2,000mm per year). Irrigation is necessary where this amount of natural rainfall is not available. The timing of irrigation is important, particularly during the formation of young shoots.
Diseases and pests are not a serious problem with bamboo. However protection of plants against leaf rolling caterpillars may be necessary in the hot, wet season under Australian conditions.
The shoots are harvested from the growing points when they are less than two weeks old. There are three types of shoots: spring or summer shoots, winter shoots and rhizome shoots. The shoots need to be processed by cutting, slicing, boiling and/or canning; and are used in numerous Asian dishes and broths.
Bamboo shoots are classified as an emerging industry in Australia and the industry is much smaller than it was a decade ago with culinary shoots being a niche market. Growers source and sell direct to consumers (primarily food outlets and restaurants) and these markets are quite small and generally well supplied.
The Bamboo Society of Australia promotes all aspects of bamboo interest in Australia. The Australian Commercial Bamboo Corporation represents all commercial bamboo businesses in Australia.
Facts and figures
- Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world
- Bamboo is propagated vegetatively in commercial enterprises
- Bamboo shoots produced in Australia are consumed domestically
- Markets for culinary bamboo shoots may be limited and growers will need to identify and cultivate markets
- Bamboo shoots have a short shelf life as they develop bitterness once harvested
- Production of bamboo for shoots requires large amounts of summer water – the edible shoots contain 90% water
- Production of bamboo for shoots is labour intensive and can be more costly than production of bamboo as a plantation species
- Low cost imported product presents the biggest challenge to Australian producers
- Some varieties of running bamboo are banned in parts of Australia
There is small scale commercial production of bamboo shoots in Queensland and the Northern Territory.
The market for fresh bamboo shoots is believed to be very small with only a few growers sourcing and selling direct to buyers, which are primarily restaurants and food outlets.