Build your own Bamboo Living Home

Imagine a house built entirely from bamboo. Natural yet modern, simple yet elegant, rustic yet secure. Maybe I’ve just watched too many episodes of Gilligan’s Island, but I can already hear the palm fronds rustling in the breeze, the bamboo canes clonking softly, and the bonobo chimps making monkey love in the distance. Almost as arousing as the size of my minuscule carbon footprint.

But is it just one great tree-hugging fantasy, or can you really build a house entirely out of bamboo? Well, it probably depends on your definition of a house, and what you mean by entirely.

If you want to sleep in a grass-roof shack like Gilligan and the Skipper, then, yes. You can do that entirely with bamboo poles. Although you might still want some palm or sedge thatching for a bit more insulation. But if you’re looking for a modern family home with all the amenities, then you’ll have to talk to the Professor.

The Bamboo Gurus

When it comes to bamboo construction, there are a few names that stand out, genuine experts in the field. So let’s head to Colombia.

Engineer and architect Simón Vélez has been designing incredible bamboo structures and pavilions around the world for decades. A number of his buildings and installations have received prizes, and his name is almost synonymous with bamboo housing. In fact, his book, Grow Your Own House, is one of my favorites on the subject.

Less renowned, but certainly prolific, Estaban Morales is a civil engineer, also from Colombia, with a very impressive resume of bamboo construction projects. Specializing in bamboo, earth and wood building, he has participated in the design and construction of hotels, houses, restaurants, temples and other buildings throughout Colombia and Latin America.

©Filosofía Renovable y Arquitectura Mixta

Estaban’s website showcases a beautiful collection of building that he’s worked on, including the Izakaya Restaurant in Mexico, pictured above.

Thinking outside the Cubo

Now let’s head to the Philippines, where 23-year-old engineering student Earl Forlales is making history with his cutting edge housing solution. Inspired by the bamboo huts that cover his native islands, Forlales developed the Cubo, a simple, modular bamboo house that can be manufactured in a week and assembled in about four hours for a meagre $10 per sq.ft.

Judges from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors awarded Forlales first prize in the Cities for the Future competition in November 2018. His incredible design aims to address the critical housing shortage facing the Philippines. Forlales now has his eyes on some land on the outskirts of Manilla, and we’re all eager to see the Cubos go into full-scale production.

Next stop, Nepal

Bamboo houses are nothing new in tropics of southeast Asia, nor in the shadows of the Himalayas. Habitat for Humanity, an international non-profit organization dedicated to building houses for families in need, recently launched a program to build a series of bamboo homes in Nepal.

Framed partially with concrete columns, these simple, affordable homes rely almost entirely on locally harvested bamboo for their structural integrity. Volunteers, coming primarily from western countries, assembled the homes alongside a team of more experienced local builders. Together they cleaned, split and weaved the bamboo to construct the rustic but solid walls.

Later they mixed a kind of plaster from mud, straw, water and dung, which they used to coat the floors and walls, inside and out. Corrugated metal sheets served as the roof, and the end result was some wonderfully inviting housing, completed in less than two weeks. Check out YR Architecture Design to see the complete story with dozens of photos.

Do-It-Yourself Bamboo Homes

Now let’s say you don’t have the ingenuity of the Professor or the wherewithal of Thurston Howell III, and you lack the means to design and construct one of these masterpieces of green-building for yourself. Or you live in a country with much stricter building codes. No problem.

After all, you’re probably not looking to build a house of god, although some of Simón Vélez’s bamboo temples are pretty spectacular. You just want a modest family home with a little bit a of style and the least environmental impact possible. It’s all possible, and you don’t even have to relocate to a developing country in southeast Asia.

Introducing Bamboo Living Homes, based in Hawaii. For 25 years now, partners Jeffree Trudeau and David Sands have been paving the way for bamboo home enthusiasts around the world. Not only are these innovative homes easy on the eyes and soft on the earth, they’re also light on the pocketbook. What’s more, Bamboo Living is the first company in the world to design bamboo houses that meet international building standards.

Their prefab bamboo structure come as small as 100 square feet, making an ideal tea room or meditation space, starting at a paltry $8,300. You can assemble these small models yourself in as little as two days. But from there, the options go through the roof. Bamboo Living offers some 3 and 4 bedroom models with over 2,700 sq. ft. feet, plus porch space of up to 1,100 sq. ft. Check their website and feast your eyes on all the magnificent models and designs.

To date, the company has provided more than 350 bamboo homes on the islands of Hawaii and elsewhere around the world. The style of construction is ideal for tropical habitats, aesthetically and in terms of climate. Every model has the option of single-wall construction for temperate climates or double-wall with space for insulation in hot and cold zones.

If you’re looking for the most eco-friendly and sustainable bamboo house possible, that’s also reasonably priced and permitted by building regulations, look no further. For those of us who live and breathe all things green, Bamboo Living Homes are like a dream come true.

Once the home is built, you can fill it with bamboo furniture and stock the rooms with sumptuous bamboo towels and bamboo bedding. Then, of course, you’ll have to invite your friends over for piña coladas and a three-hour tour.

FULL DISCLOSURE: This article may contain affiliate links to Amazon and other websites, so that if you purchase any items through those links we may receive a small commission. This helps to finance the website, but we do not allow it to bias our opinions and recommendations. And we do NOT receive commissions from Bamboo Living Homes; our enthusiasm is perfectly genuine.

Zero Waste Shop in Northern California

The story of zero is a long and arduous one. The Mayans dabbled in it, the Ancient Greeks resisted it, and not until the 13th century did Europe fully embrace it. You might argue that it’s good for nothing. You might even say it’ll never amount to anything. But I beg to differ.

Putting aside the whole binary revolution, the zero today plays a vital part in one of the 21st century’s most progressive and common sensical innovations: the Zero Waste Shop.

What is Zero Waste?

The phrase “Zero Waste” refers to a certain lifestyle choice that involves trying in every possible way to reduce your production of trash and recycling by composting more and avoiding packaging and things like single-use bags and utensils.

Realistically, living Zero Waste is not an all-or-nothing affair. Zero Waste is an ideal. The fact is, it’s next to impossible to live in this world without making an occasional trip to the garbage can. No, reverting to hunting wild game and gathering berries is not the solution. But taking small steps forward is, small steps toward the ideal.

And it’s a philosophy we fully support at Bambu Batu. Our reusable bamboo sporks and bamboo utensil sets are a perfect example of how you can eliminate your need for disposable plastic utensils.

What is a Zero Waste Shop?

In order to accommodate this growing lifestyle choice, eco-entrepreneurs are increasingly opening businesses to cater to and promote the Zero Waste mentality.

For the most parts, these Zero Waste shops are grocery stores that use as little packaging as possible. They encourage you to bring your own reusable containers — glass jars, cloth bags, etc. — and fill them with bulk goods. Pretty much any health food store you visit will have a bulk section offering grains, legumes, granola, and more. But some will go a step or two further, giving you the option to refill your own shampoo bottles and almond butter jars.

Where can I support some Zero Waste shops in California?

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

With locations in Arcata and Eureka, the North Coast Co-op is fully committed to the reduction of waste and often sponsors local events encouraging others to do the same. The grocery stores feature a vast array of bulk goods, including nuts, grains, pasta, maple syrup, soap, shampoo and much more. They also offer an extensive selection of locally grown vegetables and dairy products.

In Nevada City, S.O.A.P. touts itself as Northern California’s original eco friendly refill shop. Since 2010 this progressive business has been encouraging its customers to bring in and refill their own containers. In their crusade to eliminate the need for single-use plastics, SOAP estimates that they have helped their clientele refill more than 35,000 reusable bottles.

A truly pioneering retail shop, Refill Madness is a family owned and operated soap refillery and gift shop in Sacramento. The store offers an immense selection of ecological products for personal hygiene, household cleaning, and so much more. They always encourage customers to bring and refill their own bottles, and they try their best to only carry products that use biodegrade packaging.

THE BAY AREA

The San Francisco Bay Area is teeming with forward thinking health food stores with a growing emphasis on bulk goods and refillable containers. Sprouts and Rainbow Grocery are couple prime examples, but you can find dozens of smaller shops and food co-ops as well.

Fillgood.co offers a truly unique Zero Waste delivery service throughout the Bay Area. Basically, they’ll provide you with the reusable containers for a countless variety of groceries and household items. On delivery day, you leave your empties outside in their special reusable black bag, and they come in the hybrid-powered delivery vehicle to refill or replace as needed. When necessary, dirty containers will be taken, washed and sterilized to be used again. Check their website for complete details on how their service works and what products they offer.

CENTRAL COAST

Small but progressive, San Luis Obispo has a fabulous Natural Food Co-op. Over the years, their bulk section has steadily grown, and today you can even refill your containers with fresh nut butters, local honey and local olive oil. Of course, they also offer a wide array of local, organic and non-GMO produce.

The Secret Garden is a tiny but terrific resource for top quality teas, herbs and traditional medicines, all sold in bulk. Remember to bring your own jar.

If you’re looking for additional ways to reduce waste, Bambu Batu in downtown San Luis Obispo has a great selection of reusable utensils made from durable, sustainable bamboo. Also check out their water bottles and stainless steel lunch box sets.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

In Ventura, the Refill Shoppe has a great selection of bulk products for the bath, home and body. Refill your own containers with soaps, shampoo and household cleaners, and revel in their eco-friendly assortment of natural cleaning products.

The SustainLA Refill Station is a mobile operation that provides refill service at different farmers markets and events throughout the southland. In their effort to eliminate disposable plastics, they can refill your containers with packaging-free soaps, shampoos and other cleansers. Visit their website to see their schedule and learn more about their services for catering and special events.

A newer Zero Waste shop, just opened in 2017, BYO Long Beach offers a sensationally sustainable selection of reusable personal items, like water bottles, bamboo utensils, and stainless steel straws. The also carry bulk teas, soaps and cleaning products. As their name suggests, you are expected to Bring Your Own containers.

ELSEWHERE

If you’re not in California, a quick online search will provide you with a wealth of Zero Waste resources in your area, as the movement is spreading quickly across the U.S and Europe. Waste no time and do it today!

Why is Zero Waste so important?

Some years ago, when I was a junior writer at the SLO New Times, I took a trip to the Cold Canyon Landfill. I was working on what I thought would be a hopeful, uplifting story about the county’s fabulous new recycling program. Instead it was a shocking, eye-opening revelation, one that would leave me with permanent psychological scars.

The sheer magnitude of this modest-sized garbage dump, for a small college town with a population of 40,000-ish, was enough to send shivers through my brain. I watched the trucks come rolling in, one after another, hour after hour. And I could see that our accumulating waste was literally transforming the landscape. I tried as I could not to ponder the number of similar dumpsites littered across the state, the country, and the planet, but to no avail.

Not only is our garbage creating actual mountains, large enough to rival some of the county’s most stately landmarks. No, it’s worse than that. Of course, for anyone or anything downwind, the stench is unspeakable. And the land itself will be permanently poisoned and unapproachable, for centuries anyway.

But no, it’s even worse than that. Landfills like this are major producers of methane. Methane comprises about 20 percent of the greenhouses gases in our earth’s atmosphere. And what’s more, as a greenhouse gas, methane is about 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

And the landfills (as we so affectionately call them) are just where the responsible people’s garbage ends up. Don’t even get me started on the litterbugs and the islands of plastic and manmade detritus drifting across the world’s many oceans. Scientists currently estimate the Pacific Garbage Patch to be somewhere between the size of Texas and the size of Russia!

As you can clearly see, our clever species is literally smothering the planet with garbage. And the Zero Waste movement is but one simple and elegant approach to counteracting this calamitous trend. So what are you waiting for?

Bamboo Import Europe

If you’re living in California, you probably already know where to get your bamboo. Of course, if you’re in San Luis Obispo, Bambu Batu has everything to satisfy your appetite for bamboo socks, towels and bedding, as well as an endless array of gifts and decor for the conscious lifestyle. And when it comes to finding bamboo flooring and building materials, we are happy to recommend Cali Bamboo down in San Diego. But this is only the tip of the proverbial bamboo shoot.

In today’s global village, someone on any corner of the planet might take an interest in something they read about on some other corner of the planet. For example, I regularly get people from Europe and Canada asking me where to find good bamboo products. If they’re in Canada, it’s not too unreasonable to have something shipped from California. But in Europe, the cost of shipping and customs makes it pretty impractical. Which leads us to our question.

Where can I find the best bamboo in Europe?

Versatile and multifarious, bamboo comes in all shapes and sizes and formats. We could be talking about bamboo for your garden, bamboo for your kitchen floors, or bamboo to replace your worn out bed linens. So let’s just tackle one category at a time.

BAMBOO BUILDING MATERIALS IN EUROPE

Apart from a few ornamental gardens and arboretums (see below), no one in Europe is really growing a significant crop of bamboo. The most useful varieties, being predominantly subtropical, just won’t thrive in a European climate. So if you’re shopping for bamboo flooring, bamboo thatching, or bamboo poles for a special building project, you’ll be buying imported bamboo, just like you would in California.

Our extensive research of the continental market led us to Bamboo Import Europe, based just outside of Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. Their vast showroom is open to the public, Monday through Saturday. If you can’t make it up to Holland, they also ship anywhere in Europe, usually within 3-6 days.

Bamboo Import’s selection of building materials is as impressive as any I’ve ever seen. Peruse their website to view an immense assortment of bamboo poles, fencing, plywood, pergolas, picnic benches and more. No project is too big or too small.

Their site also features an epic photo gallery that could inspire even the most reluctant bamboo skeptic with visions of tropical dream homes and architectural marvels that range from the truly exotic to the immaculately modern. And if you find any of these visions irresistible, Bamboo Import’s installation team can come to your home and help turn your bamboo fantasy into a reality.

Bamboo Import works directly with longstanding partners in China, Indonesia and South America to source the very best materials and maintain the highest levels of quality control on all their bamboo products.

BAMBOO AND NATURAL FIBER CLOTHING

I’m pleased to report that eco-boutiques specializing in natural fiber clothing are not an altogether rare site in Europe, at least not in the larger cities. I’ve seen several in Barcelona and in Germany, even in some smaller cities. If you can visit one of these small boutiques, that’s always your best option. There’s nothing like seeing, feeling and trying it on in person. You can also reduce the carbon footprint by avoiding shipping.

If you can’t find a shop close by and you’re happy shopping online, we can earnestly suggest Thought, formerly Braintree Clothing, based in the UK. Originally founded in Australia, this small team of forward thinkers have been developing their brand since 1995, in accordance with the strictest standards of sustainability and social responsibility.

It’s clear that this visionary company of eco-fashionistas has put a lot of thought into everything they do. From their sleek website to their elegant garments, everything has been done with care. Today they offer an extensive line of men’s and women’s wear, made from naturally grown bamboo, cotton, wool and hemp, as well as tencel and modal.

Thought’s stunning selection of sustainable clothing will leave you feeling good, and their mantra will give you something to think about. “Wear Me, Love Me, Mend Me, Pass Me On.” Their website has a whole section devoted to promoting better care for your clothing, which translates into taking better care of our planet.

BAMBOO TOWELS AND BEDDING IN EUROPE

Finding bamboo towels and bamboo bedding remains a challenge, which is too bad, because these are two of my favorite bamboo applications. We’re still looking for the best source (or any source, really) for sheets, but we have found a German towel manufacturer with a line of bamboo towels.

Möve (that’s German for seagull) is based in east Saxony and has stores all over Germany, mostly in the east and the north. Furthermore, they produce all their towels in Germany. German craftsmanship is something I’ve come to love and trust, but unfortunately their selection of bamboo bath towels is a bit limited at the moment. Black, white and hot pink are not my favorite bath colors. But they do have a wide variety of bamboo hand towels and wash cloths. And until further notice, this is our best lead.

BAMBOO GARDENS IN EUROPE

If you’re looking to buy live bamboo for your garden, you can start by just visiting your local nursery and checking out some seasonal garden shows. They take place all over Europe in the spring and summer.

Or if you just want to see a pretty bamboo garden, check your nearest botanical garden. Just about every city has one, they are often affiliated with the local university. In France, Germany and northern Europe they are particularly impressive, and I recall that Berlin has an especially nice Japanese Garden.

But if it’s Europe’s most incredible bamboo garden you’re looking for, you’ll want to head to the south of France. About 30 miles northwest of Nimes, the Bambouseraie has been propagating vegetation and welcoming visitors since 1856. Today the spectacular garden includes about 300 varieties of bamboo, making it one of the most diversified bamboo collections on earth. (Experts put the total number of bamboo species somewhere between 1200 and 2000.)

Among the 80+ acres of bamboo groves, you’ll also find a flourishing boscage of century-old magnolias, ancient ginkgos, and majestic oak trees. The Bambouseraie even has a bamboo hedge labyrinth, so you can truly get lost in the sticks!

International Sensation

In California, we sometimes like to think we have a monopoly on all things hip, cool and eco-conscious. It’s true, California has produced and popularized some pretty cool things: Vans, Frisbees, the Tesla Roadster, the Grateful Dead. I could go on and on. Just check out this documentary on California Innovations.

But Californians certainly cannot take credit for bamboo. Bamboo is a prolific plant with an ancient history and widespread appeal. Some of today’s most important innovators and producers of modern bamboo products may be based in California and Oregon, but we could hardly refer to this miraculous plant as a West Coast original.

Bloggers Without Borders

The fact is, I do some of my best writing when I’m traveling, on the road and away from California. At the same time, our international readership is growing. When we launched the Bambu Batu blog back in 2008, we were writing for the small, local community of the Central Coast. But today we get readers from across the country and around the world, so we see it as our duty to cover a more cosmopolitan array of bamboo topics.

A recent sojourn through the Old World made me aware of a growing bamboo scene in Europe. Germans and Scandinavians are somewhat well-known for their progressive energy and environmental policies, so it should come as no shock that alternative materials like hemp and bamboo are as popular in Europe as they are in the Golden State. Still, it’s always a bit of surprise to wander through a city of gothic cathedrals, black turtle necks and heavy trench coats, and then come across an island tiki bar or a colorful boutique filled with tree hugger t-shirts.

Now if only I could find a decent Frisbee anywhere between the Amstel and the Ebro.

Arashiyama Bamboo GroveBamboo Tourism

So you’re in love with bamboo, and you just can’t get enough of it? Welcome to the club.

My name is Fred and I’m a bambooholic. That’s right. Without my regular fix of noble bamboo grasses, I get terribly wound up. When the monotony of ordinary life brings me down, or a particularly grueling day at the office leaves me on edge, there’s only one thing to bring me back to center.

That’s right, there’s nothing so calm and balancing as a quiet stroll through a majestic grove of bamboo. And when that’s not available, an inconspicuous seat among a few clusters of potted bamboo will do just fine.

If I could, I’d travel the world to visit all the greatest bamboo forests in the world. And I’d pay a visit to every arboretum and botanical garden with a bamboo collection worth mentioning. Well, unfortunately that hasn’t been possible yet. But in the meantime, I’m keeping a list of the world’s best bamboo gardens, just in case the opportunity arises.

The Bucket List of Best Bamboo Gardens

Now if you Google “best bamboo garden” — and maybe you already have — you’ll probably get pages and pages of results for Chinese restaurants, all cleverly (if not originally) named Bamboo Garden. Maybe someday we’ll get around to writing reviews for bamboo themed restaurants. But don’t hold your breath. Instead, grab your notepad and your world atlas, because we’re heading on a tour of the world’s greatest bamboo gardens.

NOTE: We present following list in no particular order, although the gardens are numbered to make the list easier to scroll. Otherwise we have organized the list by continent, beginning with Asia, which not surprisingly lays claim to the greatest number of incredible bamboo gardens, especially in Japan.

ASIA:

1. Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in Kyoto (Japan)

In a city teeming with monuments of historic and cultural significance, the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove of Kyoto — also called the Sagano Bamboo Forest — adds yet another rich layer of texture to this glorious metropolis. A natural forest of sprawling, towering bamboo, the Japanese Ministry of Environment manages the grove as a tourist attraction and natural reserve. There are several trails leading through the park, where visitors can feel themselves being swallowed up by the massive grasses. Once upon you could come here and meditate to the sound of rustling leaves and clonking bamboo poles, but today the forest has risen to the status of world-class, must-see destinations, so don’t expect to have the place all to yourself.

2. Higashikurumeshi Chikurin Park, Tokyo (Japan)

A peaceful botanical garden with a naturally flowing spring and some 2000 thriving shoots of bamboo, Chikurin Park is located close to the train station and charges no entrance fee. If you’re looking for an oasis of bamboo in a quiet suburb of Tokyo, this densely wooded grove is well worth a visit.

3. Hokoku-ji Temple in Kamakura (Japan)

A Zen Buddhist temple dating back to the 14th century, Hokoku-ji is often referred to as the Bamboo Temple. Amidst the various structures, all beautiful specimens of Japanese architecture, you’ll find of grove of about 2000 Moso bamboo poles. If you want to take in a genuine Zen experience with your bamboo, this is the destination.

4. Suzume-no Oyado Ryokuchi Park in Tokyo (Japan)

Though not one of Japan’s larger bamboo collections, this grove has been established for more than 200 years. The metropolitan park is named after the large species of sparrow (suzume in Japanese) that once overwhelmed the area. Today you’ll still find many of these and other birds among the bamboo, but not in the great quantities of centuries past. You can also visit a traditional and fully restored Japanese house here.

5. Wangjianglou Park in Chengdu (China)

Deep in the heart of this central Chinese super-metropolis (population approx. 14 million), Chengdu’s Wangjianglou Park is the ultimate urban hideaway. With charming teahouses and meticulous landscaping that sprawls out for acres and acres, the highlight of this stunning park is arguably its historic and extensive collection of bamboo. Numerous monuments here are dedicated to Xue Tao, a famous Tang dynasty poetess, whose passion for bamboo has been well documented. In her memory, the landscape architects also planted more than 200 species of bamboo, and today they have grown to magnificent size and splendor.

6. Zizhuyuan Park, Purple Bamboo Garden in Beijing (China)

One of Beijing’s seven largest parks, with a history tracing back to the 12th century, the Purple Bamboo Garden consists of three lakes and a series of canals and bridges occupying more than 100 acres. The bamboo planting began in the 1500s, during the Ming Dynasty, and today you can find more than 50 species growing on the premises, as well as an assortment of bamboo structures. The park earned its name from the abundance of purple bamboo, but the quantity and diversity of bamboo growing in the park is truly astonishing.

7. Juknokwon in Damyang (Korea)

The South Korean county of Damyang is well-known for its thriving bamboo forests, and the residents have gone so far to make a tourist attraction out of their prolific bamboo. In addition to the verdant arboretum, the region is also home to a bamboo theme park, a bamboo museum, and a bamboo festival. The arboretum, “Juknokwon”, features some very scenic and well-maintained walking paths and an artificial waterfall.

8. Son Tra Mountain Bamboo Forest and Museum in Da Nang (Vietnam)

Vietnam’s largest bamboo museum is the essentially the work of a single monk named Thich The Tuong. He started collecting and planting bamboo in this idyllic corner of the country about 10 years ago as a way to preserve and share this vital symbol of Vietnamese heritage. He claims now to have more than a 100 species of bamboo on his property. You can discover an amazing array of treasures — both natural and manmade — throughout the surrounding forests of the Son Tra peninsula.

9. Carolina Bamboo Gardens (Philippines)

Carolina Gozon Jimenez began this garden in the year 2000 on a 5 hectare (12 acre) plot of land just outside the crowded capital city of Manila. Today the beautifully landscaped acreage features about 45 species of bamboo, both indigenous and exotic. Some very striking bamboo structures also showcase the plant’s impressive potential as a construction material. Most interesting of all may be the Bambusetum, Carolina’s bamboo gene bank, preserving a diversity of bamboo genetics for generations to come. The facility also hosts seminars and events to promote bamboo and environmental stewardship.

SOUTH AMERICA:

10. Serra dos Órgãos National Park near Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)

In any other setting, this bamboo garden would be a highlight in itself, but here in the 40-square-mile national park, the bamboo almost gets lost in the landscape of dramatic rock formations and lush vegetation. A peaceful trail leads through the grove into a place of zen known only to real bamboo aficionados, but that’s only one small facet of this stunning landmark. Come for the bamboo, stay for the spectacular topography!

Sunrise over Serra dos Órgãos National Park with the iconic “Finger of God”. (Wikipedia) 11. El Paraiso del Bambu y La Guadua (Colombia)

A real Mecca for the most serious bamboo enthusiasts, Colombia’s “Bamboo Paradise” is like a living monument to this astonishing plant. Outside of Asia, Colombians probably make better use of bamboo than any other nationality on earth. An educational facility and agro-tourism destination, the Paradise hosts tours and workshops, and grows some of the most impressive bamboo specimens in the world. Demonstrations provide participants with hands-on experience in planting bamboo and using it for a vast range of purposes, from ecological conservation to construction. Of course, all the buildings on the premises are fashioned from giant timber bamboo.

NORTH AMERICA:

12. Manoa Falls Trail near Honolulu (Hawaii)

A very popular hike on the island of Oahu — where it’s pretty difficult to walk into the woods and find anything less than sensational — this trail will lead you up the mountain through a lush jungle and a gorgeous bamboo forest before reaching the namesake waterfall. At the bottom of the hill, Lyon Arboretum (formerly Manoa Arboretum) offers plant lovers a spectacle of tropical diversity,  brimming with palms, gingers, heliconias, bromeliads, and aroids.

13. Pipiwai Trail and Bamboo Forest of Maui (Hawaii)

Located within the Haleakalā National Park (famous for its 7-mile wide volcanic crater), this 6-mile trail will take you through a massive, wild forest of bamboo that stretches out as far as the eye can see. For such an majestic and expansive forest of bamboo, it’s one of the easiest in the world to reach. Prepare to be mesmerized by the sound of leaves rustling and bamboo canes knocking together. Keep going and you’ll reach a couple of incredible waterfalls, one of them (Makahiku Falls) over 200 feet tall. Technically, bamboo is not native to Hawaii, but then nothing really is, because the terrain was created by volcano eruptions. Everything living on the islands today arrived from elsewhere, by wind, by sea or by bird.

14. The Makaleha Hike on Kaua’i (Hawaii)

Unlike many other bamboo gardens on this list, this one is no walk in the park. I mean that quite literally. To reach this wild bamboo forest, you may have to explore deep into the outback. Although the trail is officially less than three miles, it is recommended only for expert hikers. Bring rugged hiking shoes, and a first aid kit, just in case. Along the way you can expect to see 5 or 6 waterfalls and a plethora of biodiversity. And beware: if you wander too far from the river, you might also expect to get lost in the dense forest of bamboo and jungle!

15. Allerton Botanical Garden on Kaua’i (Hawaii)

Covering 80 acres on the south shore of Kaua’i, this botanical garden offers one of the most picturesque settings on an exceptionally picturesque island. Among its rich array of tropical wonders, the garden has a glorious grove of golden bamboo. Besides the stunning diversity, this garden emphasizes landscape design, so you don’t have to be a trained botanist to appreciate the meticulous planning and outdoor aesthetics.

16. Bamboo Giant in Aptos (California)

As we’re based in San Luis Obispo, on California’s Central Coast, I just had to include this “local” favorite, a phenomenal nursery nestled in the coastal hills just south of Santa Cruz. But if you think this is merely a case of provincial favoritism, think again. Bamboo Giant encompasses 38 acres of sprawling runners and clumpers and koi ponds and bamboo pagodas — just big enough to feel lost, without actually getting lost. I’m guessing there are well over a hundred varieties of bamboo on the property, but it’s hard to say. For the most part, the various groves are very well labeled with little markers, which can be very rewarding for more horticulturally curious bamboo lover like myself. But eventually, even I reach the saturation point and lose count. Anyway, if you happen to fall in love with a certain strain of bamboo, you can take some home in a pot, because it’s all for sale.

17. Bamboo Garden in North Plains (Oregon) Overlooking the Bamboo Garden Nursery in North Plains, Oregon

Boasting the largest collection of temperate bamboos in the United States, the Bamboo Garden Nursery occupies more than 20 acres in a beautiful woodland setting, just outside of Portland, Oregon. The garden operates as a nursery, with hundred of varieties of bamboo for sale, but it’s also open to the public. In addition to the outdoor groves, there are numerous greenhouses on the premises. Spend a couple hours and you can expect to see some interesting wildlife among the bamboo as well.

EUROPE:

18. Bambouseraie bamboo garden in Languedoc (France)

Looking for another excuse to visit the south of France? Here it is. (You’re welcome.) About 30 miles northwest of Nimes, the Bambouseraie has been propagating flora and welcoming visitors since 1856. Among this prepossessing collection of oak, gingko, magnolia and more, you’ll soon find that this privately run botanical garden specializes in our favorite grass: bamboo. Today the leafy menagerie includes about 300 varieties, making it one of the most diversified bamboo collections on earth. (Experts put the total number of bamboo species somewhere between 1200 and 2000.) Wander about 80+ acres of bamboo groves and soak up the serenity as you bathe in the glory of this amazing plant. They even have a bamboo hedge labyrinth, so you can truly get lost!

19. Kew Botanical Gardens in London (U.K.)

Not necessarily one of the most impressive groves of bamboo, no must-see list of botanical gardens would be complete without mentioning the Royal Botanic Garden of Kew, which covers a tremendous 326 acres and calls itself the home of a mind-boggling 8.3 million plant and fungal herbarium specimens. For an enhanced sense of tranquility, the bamboo garden lies hidden in a quiet corner between the lake and the Rhododendron Dell. In addition to the several resplendent stands of bamboo, you’ll also find some prehistoric ginkgo trees and a traditional Japanese farmhouse. Keep an eye out for the local dragonfly population as well.

And last but not least!

20. Batumi Botanical Garden (Autonomous Republic of Georgia)

Who would have thought that a world wide tour of bamboo gardens would bring us to the former Soviet state of Georgia? Me neither. It’s probably pretty off-the-beaten-track for most of us, but the Batumi Botanical Garden definitely deserves a spot on the bucket list. I thought I’d been to every great Botanical Garden in Europe, from Lisbon to Bucharest, but here’s a new one.

Now if you’re like me, you might think a former Soviet territory would be the last place on earth to find a tropical wonderland. And so, where is Georgia anyway? You may want to consult an atlas, but Georgia is located on the eastern shore of the Black Sea, between Russian and Armenia; it also borders Turkey and Azerbaijan. So is that in Europe or Asia? God only knows.

This immense garden covers more than 250 acres of rugged terrain on this remote stretch of subtropical coastline known as the Green Cape of the Black Sea. Open to the public since 1912, a few of the gardens highlights are its majestic, 125-year-old magnolia trees and giant sequoias. Batumi also boasts an incredible diversity of succulents, palms, roses, camellias, citrus, evergreens, and yes, bamboo. An astonishing collection of East Asian plant life comprises about 40 percent of the garden, including some exquisite Japanese gardens and a profusion of bamboo forests. If you’re looking a for a far-flung botanical adventure, this one’s for you!

The world’s a big place, and bamboo is notoriously prolific, so I’m sure we’ve missed some significant examples here. A certain corner of Central America? The entire island of Bali perhaps? If you have a favorite bamboo forest or garden that we overlooked, please let us know in the comments section below.

Featured Image: Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Kyoto, Japan (Unsplash)

Cold hardy bamboo in the snowCan I grow bamboo in the snow?

We hear this question all the time, especially from our friends in Canada. Can I grow bamboo where it snows? The short answer is YES. But the long answer is that it really depends what variety of bamboo you are growing.

NOTE: To make shopping easier, this article may include one or two affiliate links.

There are more than a thousand species of grass in the bamboo family, and the majority of the most popular bamboos for gardening come from the tropics or subtropics, so they much prefer the warmer climates. But with that many varieties to choose from , you can be sure that a sufficient number of bamboos will grow happily in the snowy mountain regions and far northern latitudes like Canada.

In fact, there are dozen of varieties of cold hardy bamboo to consider. Most of them belong to either the Phyllostachys or the Fargesia group (genus) of bamboo. Phyllostachys is one of the most prevalent genera of bamboo, primarily native to China and including about 50 distinct species. Almost every species of Phyllostachys is a fast spreading runner (with an aggressive rhizome root system), and many of them are cold hardy, down to -5 or 10º F.

Fargesia is another major genus of bamboo, also indigenous to China and southeast Asia. Unlike Phyllostachys, the Fargesia bamboos are chiefly dense growing clumpers. This and their cold hardiness have made many varieties of Fargesia very popular among gardeners.

Cold hardy runners Phyllostachys aureosulcata: The “yellow groove bamboo” is easily recognizable for the yellow stripe that’s visible on the dark green culms. A subspecies known as “crookstem bamboo” has shoots that sometimes grow in a zig-zag manner. This visually interesting and attractive variety can grow up to nearly 50 feet in height, even in freezing temperatures. But in zones were it regularly gets below -10 or 15º F, it probably won’t grow more than 10 feet tall. Phyllostachys heteroclada f. solida: This subspecies of “water bamboo” is commonly known as “solid bamboo”. It’s one of the few varieties that actually has a solid stem, rather than being hollow inside. It’s also a bit more cold resistant than ordinary water bamboo, hardy down to -10º F. Phyllostachys bissetii: Very dense growing, with a thick bushy canopy, and very cold hardy. The one-inch shoots will grown up to about 20 feet in height. Phyllostachys nuda: A very attractive and cold hardy species, its shoots get 1-2 inches in diameter and 25-30 feet in height. Young shoots appear very dark, almost black, turning a rich, dark green as they mature, usually with pretty, white rings around the culm nodes. Phyllostachys atrovaginata: Popularly known as “incense bamboo”, this variety has a waxy coat that gives the culms a very pleasant fragrance in hot weather or when rubbed. Many gardeners appreciate how fast his bamboo grows, with thick culms of 3 inches or more in diameter and up to about 40 feet in height. Good at temperatures as low as -10 or 15º F. Phyllostachys parvifolia: Like water bamboo, the rhizomes of this species are well adapted for wet and saturated soil. Small leaves make the thick, dark green culms stand out, and the white rings around the nodes give them even more character. Fresh shoots of this variety are reputed to be delicious in flavor. Mature shoots can get up to 40 feet tall, and it is cold hardy down to -15º F.

REMEMBER: If you’re planting running bamboo, like any Phyllostachys variety, always use a root barrier. Check out this Deep Root Barrier available from Amazon. Also check out this detailed article on bamboo containment practices.

Cold hardy clumpers Fargesia murielae: Commonly known as “umbrella bamboo”, many consider this to be among the most beautiful varieties for cultivation. New shoots have a light blue hue, turning dark green and yellow with age. Growing this bamboo in a shady area will help preserve the rich blue shade. Thin shoots will get about 12 feet tall, and it’s hardy down to -20º F. Fargesia nitida: “Blue fountain bamboo” earned its name from the dark purple, bluish culms and the thick, cascading canopy of foliage. One-inch poles can get to about 15 feet tall, and thrive in temperatures as low as -20º F. Fargesia dracocephala: “Dragon head bamboo” has think culms growing to about 10 feet, with a thick, weeping leaf canopy that can provide a good privacy hedge. Not recommended for hot, humid climates, but cold hardy down to -10º F. Fargesia rufa: A compact, thick and bushy variety, Rufa much prefers the cooler climates, and also does well in partial shade, protected from afternoon sun. This species is hardy down to -15º F. Thin culms grow to about 10 feet tall. Fargesia sp. ‘Jiuzhaigou’: This species includes many interesting and cold hardy cultivars, including “red dragon” and black cherry”. As the names suggest, these are some more colorful varietals. With thin culms growing to around 10 feet, this is a more compact species of bamboo, but cold hardy down to -20º F. Pack your bags for Canada! Growing Bamboo in the Cold

As you can see, there are plenty of bamboos to choose from if you’re looking to landscape an oriental style garden in the northern habitats of the US, Canada or even Europe. Most of these species are hardy into the negative Fahrenheit territory, so as long as you aren’t expecting to dip below minus 20º or something, you should be fine. And even if the leaves get a little fried in an abnormally severe cold snap, the roots should still endure.

Have fun gardening, and if you have any photos of snowmen in your bamboo grove, please send them our way!

Bamboo for Gardens is one of the best books about bambooBamboo literature for your library or coffee table

Here at Bambu Batu, we’re just crazy about bamboo. Perhaps you knew that by now. We grow it, we wear it, we eat it, and we read about it.

As one of the oldest cultivated plants in human history, you can believe there are quite a few books about bamboo. So your chances of reading every bamboo book are about as good as your chances of visiting every bamboo garden. That’s why we’ve put together this list, a sort of greatest hits compilation from the world of bamboo literature.

Yes, you might say we’re a little obsessed. But no, we’re not completely bamboo bonkers. That is, we haven’t read every book about bamboo ever written. We’ve read quite a few though, and sold several titles in the shop. We’ve also spent years researching bamboo and networking in the bamboo industry. There’s no doubt, in fact, that we are authorities on the subject.

NOTE: To make shopping easier, we’ve included some affiliate links in this article.

Bamboo Subject Matter

Bamboo is an enormous subject, so to get a better handle on it, let’s break the literature down into three distinct topics. And before you order what may be described as the “bible of bamboo”, be sure that it actually covers the topics of bamboo that you’re interested in.

For example, if you’re planning to build a bamboo house, and your “bible of bamboo” is actually a phenomenally comprehensive account of bamboo’s anthropological history, then you might be in for a disappointment. Just be sure you know what you’re looking for, and always check the product description or the summary on the back cover before you make a purchase.

To make shopping for the right book even easier, we’ve included direct links to Amazon.

Books on BAMBOO GARDENING & HORTICULTURE

If you’re planting or maintaining a bamboo garden, be sure your book is about growing bamboo. Plenty of bad book reviews on Amazon come from gardeners who bought books filled with “useless” information about the history of bamboo.

Bamboo for Gardens, by Ted Jordan Meredith

Probably of my number one go-to for bamboo eye candy, this beautiful volume explains the many great reasons for planting bamboo, and then goes about describing how to do so in your own garden to get the very best results. An excellent addition to the coffee table, the book is also rich with encyclopedic, botanical information on selecting, planting and maintaining the best species for your setting.

Ornamental Bamboos, by David Crompton

Another very nice looking and extremely informative anthology of bamboos, this beautifully illustrated book covers a couple hundred varieties of the most attractive tropical and subtropical bamboos. Not only fun to look at, but also filled with useful, specific advice for planting and growing.

Farming Bamboo, by Daphne Lewis and Carol Miles

If you’re thinking about growing bamboo on a larger, maybe even an industrial scale, then this is the book for you. Lewis and Miles are positively the North America authorities on large scale bamboo cultivation. An invaluable resource for any bamboo farmer, the book is loaded with practical information on the growing, harvesting and marketing of bamboo for myriad purposes.

Books on BAMBOO HISTORY

For the real bamboo enthusiast or scholar, there is an abundance of literature out there on the 7,000-year (give or take) history of bamboo. These sorts of books will typically address the many uses of bamboo over the centuries, from eating to building to paper making. Some are likely to focus on one area more than another. You’ll also find a wealth of mythology and folklore that usually appears alongside bamboo history. More specialized books can also cover those erudite topics.

The Book of Bamboo, by David Farrelly

This comprehensive compendium just overflows with fascinating facts, stories and illustrations. Written with exuberant passion, the book covers the history of bamboo and its co-evolution with Asian civilization, exploring the plant’s countless uses in both the past and the present.

Bamboo, by Susanne Lucas

Here’s yet another handsome volume to prove that bamboo is magnificently photogenic, on top of all its other remarkable traits. One of America’s foremost authorities on bamboo, the author Susanne Lucas is executive director of the World Bamboo Organization and a horticulturalist, designer, and landscape gardener based in Massachusetts. Her book provides a very thorough history of bamboo and its uses by humans over several millennia, while also cataloging the impressive range of innovations and applications in modern times.

Books on BAMBOO CONSTRUCTION

A subject that’s undergone something of a renaissance in recent years, bamboo construction is fascinating even for the layman, and can get very technical for those actually wanting to build a structure they can comfortably live in. Depending which sub-category you belong to, be sure that the bamboo construction book you buy contains the types of pictures and the level of detail that will be most useful and interesting to you.

Grow Your Own House, by Simón Vélez

Considered something like the Master Guru of bamboo construction, no one has done more to demonstrate the incredible building potential of bamboo than Colombian architect Simón Vélez. In Grow Your Own House, Vélez presents a stunning selection of bamboo structures that will change the way you think about bamboo shelter. Contrary to the title, the book only includes a handful of houses, but it’s filled with examples of ingenious construction features that could be used across a variety of applications.

Building With Bamboo, by Gernot Minke

This stimulating volume is loaded with useful, practical images and information about bamboo’s uses as a construction material. Featuring a great selection of bamboo structures, the book will inspire you with its broad scope and educate you with its up-close details.

Bamboo Architecture & Design, by Chris van Uffelen

This beautifully laid out book showcases an array of bamboo structures in Asia and South America, demonstrating the plant’s ability to measure up favorably against both timber and steel.

Appendix and Endnotes

There are literally hundreds of books about bamboo out there, and these are just a handful of our favorites. If you’re looking for something more specific —whether it’s Building a Bamboo Fly Rod, the secret to Cooking With Your Bamboo Steamer, the exotic elegance of decorating with Bamboo Style, or whatever have in mind — it’s all available.

And just when thought you knew all there was to know about bamboo, perhaps you’ll discover a brand new obsession with Japanese Bamboo Basketry. Wherever your bamboo passion takes you, go there with gusto, and maybe some day you’ll be writing a bamboo book of your own.

Bamboo Fountains for Feng ShuiGet into the Flow

Maybe I just watched too much Gilligan’s Island as a kid, but there’s something about being surrounded by bamboo that I find very relaxing. Whether it’s a thriving bamboo garden, an attractive arrangement of lucky bamboo, or a tasteful piece of bamboo furniture, it can really set the mood and create a sense of space. There’s no doubt that a little bamboo can do wonders for your Feng Shui, and nothing will do it better than a nice bamboo fountain.

NOTE: To make shopping even easier, we’ve included some affiliate links in this article.

Feng Shui for better Chi

Feng Shui experts agree that a well-placed fountain is one of the best ways to introduce a positive energy flow into your home or office. A good fountain can improve your Feng Shui in three basic ways.

WATER: One of the five primary elements of Feng Shui — along with earth, metal, wood and fire — water is easily overlooked in most interior decoration schemes. But according to Feng Shui, water plays a crucial role in matters related to money and career. Still water (in a fish tank, for instance) brings a calming energy needed for new beginnings. Flowing water helps you to move forward and let go of things you no longer need. Just watch for spills. Stains and water damage to your hardwood floor are not likely to improve your financial well-being! MOTION: One of the chief functions of Feng Shui is to encourage the flow of Chi, or Qi, the fundamental energy force in traditional Chinese medicine. By arranging furniture and other objects in an advantageous position, the Chi can be sped up or slowed down. You can also redirect it towards or away from different aspects of life, including health, wealth, romance, and so on. An excellent way to promote the movement of Chi is to have something that actually moves, such as the flowing water of a fountain. Just be careful, as excessive or inappropriate movement can stir up chaotic and disruptive energy. SOUND: Another element that people often overlook in their home decor, sound is a form of energy created by vibrations in the air. Properly harnessing these vibrations can attract very beneficial energy into your home or office. Pleasant sounding wind chimes (from bamboo, for example) can accomplish this, as can the sound of trickling water from a fountain. Again, be careful when you introduce sound to the setting. As with motion, sounds that are too loud, too repetitious or just too shrill, can do more harm than good. Bamboo Fountain Features

For years we’ve been using bamboo fountains around the house and in the store. And it doesn’t take a Feng Shui zen master to see how these water features improve the overall good vibes. Whenever a child comes into the shop, they almost always make a bee line for the bamboo fountain set-up. I’m not sure whether they see it first or hear it, but it never fails to captivate their attention. Maybe it’s the Chi, maybe it’s something else, but the wisdom of the child is absolutely tuned into it.

Sometimes I like to add a couple water plants, and maybe one or two goldfish, to give the fountain even more life. This requires changing out the water more regularly, but it’s worth it. The vibrant plants and happy goldfish can bring priceless benefits to your Feng Shui.

Also, it’s a good idea to used bottled water, because the city water (in my experience) tends to be very hard, so the calcium and minerals can muck up the water basin and the pump pretty quickly. If that happens, an old toothbrush and some vinegar solution will usually do the trick.

With these factors in mind, let’s go ahead and take a look at a few of my favorite bamboo fountain kits. To make shopping easier, we’ve included some Amazon affiliate links in this article.

Five Arm Bamboo Fountain

Probably my favorite bamboo fountain, for price and simplicity. The five arms — three running in one direction and the other two running perpendicular — allow it to balance easily on a round or square container, and lend the fountain an interesting, elegant appearance. Ideal for indoor use.

This kit includes the pump and the bamboo and takes about two minutes to set up. All you need is a medium sized bowl (about 12-18 inches in diameter) made from glass or ceramics. Do NOT use a bamboo or wooden bowl. As nice as it sounds, it will swell and crack from the water. For the construction of the fountain, this company uses a specific variety of bamboo (which seems to be a trade secret) that does not split in water. You’ll also need a place to plug it in, as the pump runs on old-fashioned electricity.

The Five Arm Fountain is available from Amazon for easy delivery.

24 Inch Adjustable Fountain

Great in any container and perfect for outdoor use, this fountain makes an excellent addition to the zen garden. The kit is simple to set up and easy to attach to a bowl, barrel or pond liner. The height of the spout is adjustable, which means you have some control over the sound of the water: the higher the spout, the louder the splash. If you’re setting it up outside, try to keep it mostly in the shade, as this will preserve the bamboo by protecting it from prolonger, direct sun exposure. 

You’ll also need a place to plug in the electric pump, either an extension cord running into the house, or you can order this small solar power inverter from Amazon.

Bamboo Accents makes a great line of bamboo fountains, each of them, including the 24″ Adjustable Fountain is available conveniently from Amazon.

20″ Rocking Fountain Shishi Odoshi

Also known as the Deer Scarer, because of the knocking sound it makes as it teeters up and down, this is another excellent fountain for outdoor use. The traditional design relies on the weight of the water as it fills one end of the fountain and causes it to tip over, spill out and swing back up. 

The kit is fairly simple to assemble, but with a little imagination you can cleverly incorporate it into a pond or other more elaborate garden setting. You will need a vessel or pond basin of some kind to catch the water as is spills forward from the front spout. From there, the water pumps back up to the top spout. 

The pump, hose, platform base and all bamboo parts are included in the kit. The Shishi Odoshi Rocking Bamboo Fountain is also available from Amazon. And for an outdoor electricity source, you might consider a compact solar power inverter from Amazon.

There you have it. I hope these ideas help. It really doesn’t take make much add a little splash of Om to your home or a bit of zen to your den! 

Bamboo Symbolism with traditional Chinese calligraphyBamboo Immersion

Here at Bambu Batu, our lives are literally filled with bamboo. It’s on our minds, it’s in our mouths, it’s in our gardens, and we wear it on our bodies. You might say our lives are imbued with it.

No doubt, we spend plenty of time talking about bamboo, writing about bamboo, and thinking about bamboo. So sometimes I even get meta about it. That’s when I start to think about what people think about bamboo. And that can get really interesting, because people have been using and thinking about bamboo for at least 10,000 years, making it about 10 times older than the Magna Carta and 5 times older than the Bible, just to give a little perspective.

Bamboo Meanings and Allegories

Throughout Asia and beyond, people look to bamboo and admire it as kind of miraculous plant. Since time immemorial they have used bamboo to build houses for shelter, to build weapons for hunting and defense, and to eat its tender shoots for sustenance. It’s no mystery why primitive people would assign bamboo a sacred status, and revere it as a bona fide gift from the gods. 

Besides these life giving properties, bamboo also contains a spiritual message that resonates deeply in the Far Eastern ethos. We’re all familiar with bamboo’s remarkable strength and hardness, qualities that inspire respect among both man and beast. But the real genius of bamboo lies in its pliability and resilience, its ability to flex and bend without breaking. More than a mere model of brute force, the one who knows when to give in and how to sway in the breeze is the one who will truly weather the storm and survive.

As important as it is to go with the flow, in the spirit of Taoist philosophy, bamboo goes beyond even that. Characteristically hollow, bamboo is emblematic of Buddhist enlightenment. When the initiate has learned to embrace emptiness, s/he becomes a vessel for the universal spirit. Once free from worldly attachments, s/he begins to find relief from suffering and to attain real wisdom. Such are the teachings of the Buddha.

Consider also the Zen koan, which states that “Emptiness is form, and form is emptiness.” A koan is a riddle meant to be contemplated, not solved, but one interpretation of this saying would suggest that objects and beings do not take shape according to what they contain, but rather from what they lack and from what surrounds them. The structure of bamboo embodies these mysteries almost to perfection.

Bamboo Legends and Myths

Such a fast-growing and ubiquitous plant, it’s easy to see why sages of the East would associate bamboo with fertility, long life, and even immortality. Across Asia, there are legends, myths and folktales describing bamboo’s supernatural capacities. Here are a just a few examples.

CHINA

From The Twenty-four Filial Exemplars, a classic Confucian text from the Yuan Dynasty (13th century), there comes a story entitled “He Cried and the Bamboo Sprouted.” In this ancient folktale, a boy named Meng Zong lives alone with his mother, as his father died when he was quite a young. When his mother comes down with a serious illness, the country doctor prescribes a hearty soup made with fresh bamboo shoots.

The boy looks everywhere, but because it is winter he can find no bamboo shoots. So he goes into the forest and weeps profusely. As his tears sink into the soil, new bamboo shoots beginning sprouting from the earth. Quickly, the boy gathers a basket of shoots, takes them back to his mother and prepares a pot of soup. On the verge of death, she drinks the soup, and slowly she recovers until her health is fully restored.

THE PHILIPPINES

A fantastic creation myth from the Philippines, entitled “Malakas and Maganda” (The Strong One and the Beautiful One), tells a story of the first man and woman being born from a stalk of bamboo. This etiological legend describes a time before time, in which there was nothing but the sky, the sea, and a single bird.

The bird, lonely and exhausted from always flying, goes looking for a place to rest. Eventually, it stirs up a commotion and causes the sky to rain down islands into the sea, and at last the bird has a place to build a nest. Still alone, but relieved to have a nest and a resting place, the unlucky bird is one day struck by a falling bamboo pole. 

When the bird retaliates by pecking at the fallen bamboo, the hollow pole splits open and out comes a man (the Strong) and a woman (the Beautiful). Naturally, these two decide to get married and produce a great number of children, but with time the parents grew weary of their children and chased them off.

Some children hid in different rooms the house and later became chiefs of the islands. Other children hid in the walls of the house and became slaves, while others escaped to the forest and became free. Some hid in the fireplace and acquired dark skin, while others fled to the sea and returned some centuries later with white skin, which explains the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century.

VIETNAM

The Hundred-Knot Bamboo Tree is a popular fable from Vietnamese folklore. It’s the story of a wealthy and devious landowner with a very beautiful daughter, and a hopeful young man who works for the landowner and longs to marry the daughter. 

Learning of the young man’s ambitions, the landowner offers his daughter’s hand in marriage if the innocent bachelor will agree to stay and work as a servant for another three solid years. Naively, the man agrees, but meanwhile the father makes other plans to marry his daughter off to the son of a wealthy village chief. 

When the young man discovers the dishonest plot, he confronts the landowner. The wicked man then tells his servant he can still marry the daughter if he can go into the forest and find a bamboo tree with a hundred knots. Try as he may, this turns out to be an impossible task, another dishonest trick. But the young man meets a wise sage in the forest who shows him an even better trick, with which he can take a hundred pieces of bamboo and make then magically stick together like a single piece with a hundred knots.

The young man returns and finds the landowner and the chieftain celebrating, as the wedding of their daughter and son is already underway. When the servant presents the hundred pieces of bamboo, the members of the wedding party all have a good laugh at his expense. But then he magically commands the bamboo to stick together, which it does, along with the landowner, the chieftain and his son. In exchange for setting them unstuck, the young man is finally awarded the lovely daughter. Thus the two marry promptly and live happily ever after.

JAPAN

One of the oldest examples of Japanese folklore, The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter dates back to the 10th century. In this intriguing story, a beautiful princess named Kaguya who is a discovered as a baby living inside a glowing bamboo stalk. A childless woodcutter discovers the mysterious phenomenon in the forest one day, and he decides to bring the infant home to his wife. They decide to feed and look after and essentially adopt this young girl.

Soon after this, the man discovers that each time his cuts down a stalk of bamboo, he finds a nugget of gold hidden within. Quickly he and his wife grow rich, and also the news of the girls and her unmatched beauty spreads across the kingdom.

Many suitors come proposing marriage, but the man and his wife turn down every request. To discourage more proposals, they assign impossible tasks to the hopeful suitors, and so every effort fails. Even the Emperor, learning of this exquisitely beautiful princess, comes and asks to marry her. But she rejects him, telling him it cannot be done because she is not of this kingdom.

Over a serious of mystical events, it is revealed that the princess Kaguya actually came from the moon, and to the moon she must return. The Emperor, entirely smitten with the otherworldly princess, does everything he can to prevent her departure. But ultimately, she is transported back to the moon on a beam of light. 

Before leaving, she granted the Emperor a phial of the Elixir of Eternal Life, but he refused to drink it if he would have to spend eternity without her. After she’d left, the elixir was sent to the top of Mount Fuji to be burned. This explained the trail of smoke rising from the top of the mountain, back in the times when Fuji was more volcanically active.

INDIA

A myth from India tells the story of Rama’s wife, Sita, who had an extra finger on one hand. So she cut off one finger, buried it in the ground, and from it sprouted a bamboo plant. Then along came a pig who began chewing holes in the bamboo stalk. Through the holes, people found different grains inside each segment of the bamboo. And this, according to the legend, is how rice and the ancient, sacred grains of India were discovered: millet, sorghum, and amaranth. 

Do you know of a good bamboo legend that we overlooked? Let us know in the comments section.

If you enjoy a good fairy tale, be sure to take a look at some of our Zen Parables, like The Magician and the Prince or The Mind is the Forerunner of All Things. And for more philosophy, check out the article on Bamboo Wisdom and Transcendence.

Jon and Anna of Bambu BatuBamboo Batu, Bambu Batu, what the heck’s a Batu anyway?

Since Bambu Batu first opened in 2006, a lot of people have come in asking, “What’s a Batu?” Now we also call the shop the House of Bamboo, so a lot of people guess that Batu means House. And a lot of people try to spell it Bamboo Batu.

I’m sorry to point it out, but I’m afraid they’re both wrong. 

What’s in a name?

The phrase Bambu Batu actually comes from Malay, an Indonesian language spoken by nearly 300 million people, hence the exotic spelling. And it’s the name of a very specific variety of bamboo. The botanical name of that species is Dendrocalamus Strictus. But in English it’s more commonly referred to as Male Bamboo, Solid Bamboo, Iron Bamboo, or Calcutta Bamboo.

In Malay, the word Batu by itself means rock; so the literal translation of the name would be something like Rock Bamboo or Stony Bamboo. The fact is, this particular variety of bamboo is extremely hard and resilient to cracking. Oftentimes it is also solid, or very nearly solid, rather than being completely hollow like most types of bamboo that we are familiar with.

For all of these reason, Dendrocalamus Strictus is a top choice as a construction material and for building furniture. It also seems like a solid foundation on which to build a business. “And upon this rock I build my house.” Last but not least, the name Bambu Batu just rolls off the tongue so nicely. It’s pretty much impossible to say it without cracking a smile. Go ahead, try it.

Dendrocalamus Strictus

What else do we know about this exotic very of bamboo that’s so much fun to pronounce?

Growing to heights of 60 feet or more, with canes up to 5″ in diameter, Bambu Batu is a giant clumper. This giant, tropical timber bamboo is native to southeast Asia and the Indonesian archipelago. It is widespread in India, but can also be found in Central America and Cuba. Young shoots are powdery bluish in color, but gradually turn green and then dark yellow or brown as they mature. It is considered the supreme variety for furniture and construction. 

Second thoughts

For a short time, it was a dream of mine to grow some Bambu Batu in my backyard. While many varieties of bamboo grow commonly throughout California and are widely available in nurseries, Dendrocalamus Strictus remains pretty difficult to come by, even from large online bamboo dealers. I suppose it would be different if I lived in Vietnam or maybe Colombia, but California is not the climate for this species.

Furthermore, despite its impressive size, and the fact that it’s a clumper rather than a runner, Bambu Batu doesn’t seem to be the most desirable strain. This massive bamboo is not nearly as attractive as some other timber varieties, like the Vivax for example. So in the end, I put the idea to rest, and settled for several other species that would be much happier growing on California’s central coast. By the way, if you’re trying to pick some out for yourself, check out this great article on selecting the best bamboo varieties for your garden.

Finally, if you’re planning to build a House of Bamboo, the Bambu Batu might be your best bet. But if you’re looking to plant a garden, you better maybe think twice, And then remember to ask for it by name, Dendrocalamus Strictus. 

Featured Image: Bambu Batu owners Jon and Anna, in downtown San Luis Obispo.

Bamboo shoots in a Japanese marketBamboo shoots: Add some bamboo to your diet for a little extra protein and exotic crunchiness

These days, it seems like there’s nothing you can’t do with bamboo. Surely you’ve heard about bamboo flooring. If you’ve ever been to Bambu Batu then you know about bamboo clothing and sheets and towels. You’ve probably heard about things like bamboo bicycles and toothbrushes. Then there are the more obscure items like bamboo charcoal and bamboo toothpaste. Most of those topics have been covered in our blogs, so you can follow the links to read more about them. 

NOTE: To make shopping easier, this article may include one or two affiliate links.

Can you eat bamboo?

So if you can wear bamboo, and sleep on it, and brush your teeth with it, and build a house from it, you sort of have to wonder: can I eat it too? Not surprisingly, the answer is YES. 

Eating bamboo is actually one of the oldest bamboo uses of all. It’s difficult to say for certain, but people in Asia have probably been eating bamboo as long as they have been eating rice. Some sources suggest that the cultivation of bamboo as a food source dates back some 7,000 years.

You might wonder how people could eat such a woody plant, prized for its hardness, used in flooring and cutting boards. In fact, when the fresh culms (or shoots) sprout up at the beginning of the growing season, usually spring or early summer, they are actually quite soft and tender. The important thing to know is that raw bamboo contains natural toxins (glycocides), and therefore must be cooked or fermented before they can be consumed by humans. So when we say to eat it fresh (which is usually best), that does not mean uncooked, it just means not dried, canned or fermented.

What are the best varieties of edible bamboo?

Of course, it’s a different story for the bamboo-loving panda bears. Their massive and specialized jaws, teeth and stomachs allow them to eat their bamboo mature and uncooked (i.e. hard and woody). For obvious reasons, we do NOT recommend trying this at home!

Among the couple thousand species of bamboo, there are just a handful of varieties that the connoisseurs consider most suitable for eating. So unless you’re growing one of the following strains, don’t go rushing into your bamboo garden to throw together a bamboo salad.

Bambusa oldhamii: Here’s a variety that might even be growing in your garden. Oldhamii is a giant timber bamboo, and the most widely grown strain in the U.S. Its shoots are highly valued and known to be tender, fragrant and delicious. If your grove is fully grown and healthy enough, you might try harvesting some fresh shoots. Just remember to boil them before eating. If you buy canned bamboo shoots from the store, they are likely to be this variety. Phyllostachys edulis: Also called Moso Bamboo, this giant timber variety is indigenous to China and Taiwan, and is also the most widely used for bamboo textiles. Mature stalks can grow nearly 100 feet tall and get to be several inches in diameter. Fresh shoots from a well-established grove can weigh more than 5 pounds; that’s a quite a meal. Depending what time of year it’s harvested, it may be dried or eaten fresh.  Phyllostachys bambusoides: a large timber bamboo from Japan whose shoots are eaten either fresh or dried.

If you plan to harvest shoots from your own bamboo garden, do it early in the growing season when the fresh culms are just beginning to emerge. Supposedly, the new culms that are still completely underground will taste the best. Slice them lengthwise in narrow strips for preparation.

How nutritious are bamboo shoots?

You wouldn’t think of woody bamboo stalks as being particularly high in nutrients. And they’re not, which is why panda bears have to spend almost the entire day eating (and chewing) just to get enough vitamins and minerals.

But as with many freshly sprouted seeds and grains, the young and tender bamboo culms are actually packed with nutrition.  That’s the stage when the nutrients are available and most highly concentrated. And when you think about the growth rate of these giant timber bamboos — some of them shoot up a foot or two a day — it should come as no surprise that those fresh, new sprouts are just loaded with fuel. 

Essentially, the young bamboo shoots are a great source of protein, minerals and fiber. At the same time, they are low in fat and sugar. By virtue of its growth habit, bamboo does not require any pesticides or fertilizers, unlike most commercial food crops. New research on the subject also suggests that bamboo can improve appetite and digestion, and even treat diseases like cancer. 

How does it taste?

Today bamboo shoots remain a very popular component in a wide variety of dishes throughout southeast Asia and beyond. But we don’t usually cook with bamboo because its exquisite flavor. Instead we use bamboo to add a little extra texture, as well as some fiber and protein. When it comes to flavor, we let those exotic Asian spices do the talking.

Bamboo makes an excellent addition to just about any kind of soup, curry or mixed vegetable dish. Meals that incorporate bamboo and coconut milk are especially popular in Indonesia and southeast Asia. Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about! 

Fermented bamboo is common in Nepal and northern India. If you’re a fan of fermentation, you can check this recipe for Bastenga and Kesei. You might also enjoy this recipe for kimchi and this article on the science of sauerkraut

The variety of culinary uses for bamboo shoots is virtually unlimited. So get a hold of some culms and get into it. If you don’t have a good grove in your backyard or a fresh bamboo vendor at your local farmers market, you can find canned bamboo shoots at most Asian specialty shops or major supermarkets.

We’ve heard that bamboo and spinach also go very well together. If you have a favorite bamboo recipe you’d like to share, please let us know in the comments section below.

Cooking with bamboo kitchenwares

If you like cooking and eating bamboo, chances are you also enjoy cooking and eating with bamboo kitchen implements. Bambu Batu carries a wide selection of kitchen tools, from travel utensils to cutting boards. If you check online, you can also find some very high quality bamboo cutting boards at Amazon. Ideal for use in the kitchen, wood from bamboo is extremely hard and naturally antimicrobial, making it resistant to germs and easy to keep clean. 

Featured Image: Bamboo shoots in a Japanese market (Wikipedia)

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