Updated: Aug 19
Ask most gardeners about bamboo and they will likely cringe. Bamboo is a "weed", it is invasive and very difficult to get rid of. Bamboo spreads by rhizomes underground so killing a bamboo is almost impossible. But are all weeds bad?
Weeds grow in inhospitable soils where your flowering plants would not grow well. Weeds also grow faster than flowering plants, so if it is several inches tall and in a spot where nothing else has emerged from the soil, it is probably a weed. That makes bamboo a very sustainable "weed".
Bamboo is a very strong, versatile, and hardy plant. When compressed, the fibers are stronger than steel. Have you tried the new bamboo bicycle? Or how about that beautiful bamboo wood flooring? At the same time, bamboo also makes a heavenly soft fabric for the most delicate of baby skin.
Hardwood forests take 65 years to regrow. With the demand for materials, forests can't keep up so we are seeing many forests disappearing. However, these forests provide so much more than wood floors for homes. These trees recycle CO2 to oxygen. They provide habitats for multiple animal species, provide a barrier to storms, and prevent soil erosion. And, for me personally, a place where I feel truly at peace. Bamboo, however, can be harvested every 3 years without damaging the plant. And some species of bamboo can grow 4 feet in 24 hours. Bamboo also takes in more CO2 and releases more oxygen than hardwood trees. This makes bamboo a very sustainable alternative to hardwood so we can have our beautiful floors and our amazing hardwood forests.
I have very sensitive skin so, until now, the only natural fiber that I was not allergic to was cotton. Everyone loves cotton. It is soft, durable, and versatile. Problem is, the earth does not like mainstream cotton production. Cotton is responsible for the consumption of over 16% of the world’s total production of insecticides and 7% of its pesticides. And that’s just for one single crop. Bamboo does not require pesticides due to its natural anti-bacterial properties. It also does not take the large amounts of water or care that cotton does. Bamboo is softer than cotton, it's breathable, absorbent and wicks away moisture. Its insulating properties make it warm in cold weather and cool in warm weather. The antibacterial properties that help the bamboo fight of pests while growing remain with the bamboo fabric which makes the fabric anti-bacterial. And bamboo fabric has the look of silky cotton or refined linen. It is used for everything from baby clothes and dress shirts to bedding and towels.
Bamboo can not only house us, clothes us, and transport us, it can also nourish us. Bamboo is a staple of Asian cooking. Bamboo shoots contain phytochemicals, which have antibacterial and antiviral effects in the body. They are a good source of dietary fiber. Bamboo shoots contain potassium, important for a healthy heart and to maintain normal blood pressure. Bamboo is also high in protein and amino acids. It contains an average of 2.65g of protein per 100g of bamboo shoots. Sounds like the pandas may be on to something.
Few plants offer the strength, versatility, and beauty that bamboo does. It is truly a plant of miraculous design. And one that has many looking to our prehistoric past as the answer to a sustainable future.