Why Bamboo? Here are just a few reasons...
It's Darn Good Food and Great for Our Health
Bamboo shoots (you've probably only had them in stir fry) are good eats. Fresh shoots are tremendous compared to the canned variety Americans have been exposed to. Not only do they offer a huge variety of culinary possibilities, they also contain the highest protein levels available in a vegetable. Did I mention they are one of the top 10 foods for losing weight? Oh yeah, high in potassium and trace minerals too. And they're perennial. What other vegetables are perennial? Only asparagus, artichoke, rhubarb, and a few other less-known varieties such as lovage and sunchokes.
It's a Rapidly Renewable Resource
Bamboo produces wood harder than Oak in about 5 years. That means groves can be harvested every year indefinitely with culms that have only been growing for about 5 years (depending on the species). Compare that to 30+ years for other hardwoods. Oh, and no re-planting.
It's Great for the Environment
Producing 30% more oxygen and 40% more biomass than trees, bamboo is one of our best hopes for helping with climate change. Carbon sequestration? Biochar? Don't even get me started. Of course there are the reasons the USDA sent out free bamboo to anyone who asked until 1972: Soil stabilization through erosion control and soil building. (Yes, this is where almost any bamboo you see in the area came from: it was planted there from USDA samples). Fun fact: bamboo really doesn't flower often (or at all) like other grasses and instead relies on its rhizomes to propagate. That's why bamboo is never truly out of control like other invasive exotics - it may get big and aggressive, but it's not seeding itself out into the wild. That's also why almost all bamboo you find is in and around urban & suburban areas.
It's Great for the Economy
We all know that China has the world's fastest growing economy and (not coincidentally) the world's largest bamboo industry. America is the largest importer of bamboo in the world - how sustainable is that? Let's make use of what we have here before we start shipping it halfway around the world. The possibilities are endless for the local bamboo economy.
1000 Other Uses
There are literally over a thousand uses for bamboo, including botanical extracts, teas, medicine, arts, crafts, livestock forage, reinforcing concrete, building material, flooring, clothing, etc.
I think I just made someone mad. Yup, there are 3 varieties of bamboo native to North Carolina. You may know them by their traditional names: River Cane, Switch Cane, and Mountain Cane. After European farmers decimated the thousands of acres of native "canebrakes" because they were indicators of good soil, we lost forever the Carolina parakeet, Bachman's warbler, the passenger pigeon. Oh and the Bison stopped coming since the bamboo was a major food source. It continues to be an important resource to the Cherokee and other southeastern tribes that traditionally use it for food, weapons, pipes, crafts, and many other uses. Not to worry, we here at Brightside are working on putting together a Rivercane Restoration Project.
It Grows Well Here
Very well, depending on the species. Of course this is also the cause of many people's frustration with the plant - but that was before we were on the scene to lend a helping hand. Since bamboo doesn't act the same as most other plants, you have to approach it a little different. We prefer to eat the bamboo that gets out of hand.