Bamboo, a Chinese symbol for long life and an Indian symbol of friendship, is a natural resource that supplies food, shelter and income to more than 2.5 billion people worldwide. From the true grass family Poaceae, bamboos are some of the largest woody perennials. Found in diverse climates, including Northeast Asia, northern Australia, sub-Saharan Africa and the U.S. Southeast, these plants are very treelike in appearance, yet grow taller each year rather than wider in diameter, like ordinary trees.
Low in calories and fat, this healthy ingredient packs a fibrous punch that helps to lower cholesterol and protect against colon cancer. In addition, bamboo is rich in potassium—640 mg per cup—which helps to maintain normal blood pressure and a healthy heart rate. With a crispy, fresh flavor, this Asian-cuisine staple adds beneficial nutritional value, as well as interesting texture, to any meal.
In the kitchen
Bamboo shoots—the new culms, or stem of the plant, that grow out of the ground—commonly are used in Asian stir-fry recipes and are available at Asian supermarkets. Fermenting the sap of young stalks creates a sweet wine called ulanzi, and bamboo leaves are an ingredient in a green-colored Chinese liquor called zhúyèqīng jiú. Pith is the soft, spongy substance found in the center of the stem and can be served as a condiment.
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Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong features Braised Shark’s Fin Soup With Bamboo Pith on its menu. Under its Pacific Rim Cuisine selection, the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort & Spa in Honolulu serves Kung Pao with bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and vegetables. Known as Kua Poo Kua Gai, Salad of Crab and Chicken With Bamboo Shoot is offered to guests at The Ritz-Carlton Bali in Indonesia. See also Portobello-tofu Stir Fry With Bamboo Shoots, courtesy of Chef Chad Luethje at Red Mountain Spa in St. George, Utah.
In the spa
Commonly utilized for its clarifying properties, bamboo helps to return the skin to a healthy state. With the Bamboo and Rice Facial Polisher, from B. Kamins, Chemist, gently cleanse and buff away dirt. The Roger&Gallet Paris Gentle Nature Body Care Range With Bamboo Sap capitalizes on the powerful replenishing benefits of sugars and minerals in bamboo sap that restore skin elasticity. The line features body lotions, shower creams and firming soaps. Try the Bamboo Cream Peel from CA Botana International Inc.’s Doctor D. Schwab anti-aging product line, which features ground dried bamboo shoots as an exfoliator. Biotone Spa’s Green Tea & Lime Leaf body butter, hydrating lotion and salt glow contain bamboo to soothe and invigorate.
The Watermark Hotel and Spa on the River Walk in San Antonio, Texas, blends bamboo, ground walnut and lemongrass essential oil to refine skin’s tone and texture with its Bamboo Lemongrass Scrub. The Bamboo and Ginseng Body Polish at Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Washington, delivers bamboo beads, ginseng and ginkgo in lavender water for cell regeneration. The combination of bamboo and green tea in the San Francisco-based The Nob Hill Spa’s Bamboo Green Tea Scrub cleanses and revives. At The Anodas Spa at Nora Beach Resort & Spa in Bophut, Koh Samui, Thailand, Chum Chun—a quenching organic facial—hydrates a dull, congested complexion with bamboo shoot extract.
The hardy food
Tossed in a salad or mixed into a stir-fry, bamboo adds nutritional value with texture and a light taste. Soothe and renew the skin by including bamboo in body scrubs and polishes for nurturing exfoliation. Even enhance a spa’s décor with flooring, accents or furniture made from this durable, sustainable crop.