Bamboo, the wonder tree

Here and there in Kathmandu you can see small bamboo groves. They look beautiful and interesting, and add greenery and charm to the streets of the town. Here in Nepal bamboo is used for scaffolding, some garden furniture and Nepalese traditional basket doko is made of it as well.
Bamboo is an amazing plant. Young shoots of a giant bamboo grow 90 cm in 24 hours. This growth rate is hundreds of times faster than many other plants. The bamboo has hollow stems which look like fat green spears when they first erupt out of the ground. As the stem reaches about 15m things start to slow down. The new stem sprouts side-branches with leaves and gradually turns hard and golden brown. These mature stems are as tough as tree trunks but are hollow and surprisingly light.

In Chinese tradition bamboo simbolyzes longevity, happiness and spiritual truth while in Japan it signifies the characteristics of truthfulness and devotion. Used through out the Orient as a calligraphic tool its pure line and hollow stem have emblematic meaning for Buddhists and Thaoist writers and artists. South American tribes used bamboo as a cutting tool, blowpipe and instrument of sacred music and revered tall species of bamboo as Trees of life. In Africa bamboo aslo had sacred significance because it was ritually used for circumcision.

Traditional bamboo basket doko

However, in northeastern India's Mizoram state, there's one bamboo species, Melocanna baccifera, that causes dread. The plant flowers every 48 to 50 years, and its blooming brings tens of millions of hungry rats. After they devour the bamboo fruit, the rats start consuming crops, destroying entire fields - and local livelihoods - in a day or two. The phenomenon is known in the local language as mautam or "bamboo death."
Undeveloped, young, tender bamboo shoots are used in Nepali cooking. They can be pickled, fermented, dried or cooked with any combination of vegetables but preferably with potato. To make fermented bamboo, fresh bamboo shoots are thinly sliced, mixed with salt, mustard seeds, turmeric and mustard oil and fermented in the sun until they become slightly sour.

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