Labong (bamboo shoots) is an Asian vegetable that is gaining popularity nowadays, especially the fresh one not only because of
of its fiber contents but also for its’ nutritional value like potassium and some other phyto-chemicals which experts say are antioxidants.
Bamboo is a member of the grass family that is why they grow fast and wild. You harvest the bamboo shoots before they are two weeks old or at least one foot tall. You will find that the tender part of shoot is crisp just like asparagus and the flavor is just like fresh, young corn.
You have to cook the fresh bamboo shoots before eating, though. I remember, my mom always buy them in the market already prepared. So all she has to do is rinse them before cooking in fish stock and then mix with other vegetable we call saluyot (molokiya), and then she puts grilled tilapia or bangus (milkfish) for more flavor and that would be a one course meal for us. It is especially good to eat it at lunchtime.
Bamboo shoots is widely available in the can and most supermarkets carry the product in the Oriental section or Asian products aisle. Chinese are the ones who popularized this vegetable because it is almost always included in their vegetable recipes, especially the stir fry recipes.
I remember in my grandparents’ farm, there is a particular spot isolated from the farm where the bamboos are grown because they are invasive and quite dangerous because of the sticks and the leaves that may cut you or poke you in the eye if you do not have protection. There is where we get the bamboo that we need for building things like fences, trellises or “palapa” and also for staking vegetables, shrubs and even fruit trees. I also remember the bridge made of two lengths of bamboos to cross a small stream. We also utilize bamboo for picking fruits like mangoes, and it is the most important implement for roasting the pig we call “lechon”, also a valuable tool for fishing and another special use of the bamboo is in our native dance we call the “tinikling” where they use the bamboo as a part of the dance. In the dance, if you’re not careful, the bamboos might hurt your legs.
Back to bamboo shoots for eating, you need to cook bamboo shoots in boiling water for at least 20 minutes or until tender and then cut them into desired pieces for your recipes. Not only the shoots are low in calories, but it is also a good source of fiber and it also high in potassium which helps maintain normal blood pressure so all in all, bamboo shoots are good healthy food, and we are lucky we have an abundance of them in nature.
The availability of bamboo lead to using it as an alternative resource for trees that are endangered because of too much logging, hence bamboo flooring. I would like to have a house with bamboo floors, it would probably feel good to my feet.