When and How to Bamboo
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When to Harvest Bamboo
Bamboo grows all over the world in a variety of cultures and climates. These cultures often contain folklore, superstition and folk wisdom about the right time and the right way to cut bamboo. For many communities, especially in the poorer southern hemisphere, the correct cutting of bamboo has a big financial impact as bamboo is a vital resource.
Bamboo contains a lot of starch. This starch contains sugars that attract parasites, borers and fungi. It is thus important to cut bamboo when starch levels are low. This will make the bamboo more naturally resistant to attack.
In Tobago the folk wisdom or superstition is that you should never cut bamboo during a full moon. The belief is that the full moon not only affects the tides but also increases sap levels in bamboo.
In Nicaragua it is believed that the optimum time to harvest bamboo is 3 or 4 days after a full moon, a few hours after the sun starts its descent. It is believed that this is the time that the bamboo grows new rhizomes and the starch levels are lower in the main culm as the ‘energy’ of the plant is distributed to help the new growth. This theory has a little more plausibility as it introduces some explanation for lower starch levels after a full moon. Moreover, it is asserted that bamboo speeds up its growth cycle when it experiences not only day light but bright moon light from a full lunar night.
All this sounds superficially persuasive. Unfortunately, there are many more variables to consider in the growth cycle of bamboo than just the phase of the moon. There is season, climate, soil, rainfall and also the life cycle of bugs that feed on bamboo. Perhaps in certain countries like Nicaragua they have hit upon optimum times to harvest bamboo for the wrong reasons. However, as the saying goes, if it isn’t broken don’t fix it.
In climates with a rainy season the best time to harvest is at the end of the rainy season. During the dry season the bamboo plant is conserving nutrients and has high sap levels. In rainy season the moisture level is high and this increases the likelihood of splitting and cracking; moreover, this is when new shoots emerge. Harvesting at this time could inadvertently damage new shoots. Thus, just after the rainy season is the best time to harvest bamboo.
How to Harvest Bamboo
The best place to cut a bamboo is just above the first or second node. It should be as close to the node as possible to avoid leaving a recess that water can collect in and rot the part of the culm still in the ground.
Cut the bamboo with a saw or machete. Try to cut evenly rather than hacking away. When harvesting, be careful not to damage any new rhizomes.
Once cut don’t throw the culm on the ground as it could cause cracks.
Don’t leave the cut bamboo on the ground for any long period of time. The bamboo is still ‘alive’. The best thing to do is to lean it against a wall or tree and on a stone or piece of plastic. Standing the bamboo culm for a day or so helps to reduce starch levels, and thus helps the drying process.
Whatever the science, people have for centuries been harvesting bamboo to use for a vast array of purposes. It seems to be only now that science has bothered to pay much attention to this time honored process.