Species: Nastuse Elatus
Cultivar: New Guinea Green
A giant grass, bamboo is the world’s fastest-growing woody plant and can be used for anything from paper or clothing production to acting as a building material to make flooring, benchtops and fences. An environmentally sound choice (known to produce up to thirty-five per cent more oxygen than trees, as well as absorbing considerably more carbon dioxide), of the 1500 bamboo species in the world, about 110 are recorded to have edible shoots. These are an important food source in many Asian countries, with Thailand, China and Japan being the biggest consumers. — Bamboo grows in a short but vigorous spurt during summer, with the new shoots emerging from the ground and reaching full height within a period of two to three months. While most of these bamboo shoots must be carefully prepared and blanched in boiling water before being consumed in order to remove potentially dangerous quantities of the natural plant toxins cyanogenic glycosides, Nastus elatus (or ‘New Guinea Green’) is the only variety that can be eaten from the ground without cooking. An attractive species with delicate, arching green-grey foliage and canes reaching up to 12 m (40 ft) tall, the shoots are deliciously sweet with a crisp yet tender texture. — The New Guinea Green shoots that I source for my restaurants come from the Byron Bay area in northern New South Wales, with the temperate climate and high rainfall there seeming especially suited to this variety. The fact that you don’t have to blanch or boil this particular bamboo shoot makes it extremely attractive from a culinary point of view; you can simply split the shoot in half and peel back the outer leaves to expose the tender inner core, then thinly slice it and serve it raw in a salad (though they are equally delicious grilled or blanched for a few seconds and brushed with butter).