Thread: Bamboo
View Single Post
Old 02-20-2012, 12:14 PM   #9
Cady Goldfield
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,024
Re: Bamboo

That was a nice little article. The Bamboo Museum and gardens @ Rakusai Bamboo Park -- what a gem! Alas, I have seen only photos, not having visited that place yet. Next time I'm in Japan...

Here in the West, interest in bamboo has been piqued over the past 20 years, especially in its use as a landscape plant. But the use of bamboo wood for craft and practical use goes back much further. Edison's bamboo filament (mentioned in the article) is one example. Bamboo charcoal has been used for water filters and even gas mask filters.

If I recall correctly, the Japanese have two general terms for the two main categories of bamboo. Take(dake) is for the tall, tree-like bamboos such as Moso. (For some strange reason, Moso is often called "Moso-chiku" even though it's a "take/dake." Oh well.) Remember the scene in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" where the characters engage in "kungfu fighting" atop an enormous forest of bamboo? That was Moso, and in fact the entire forest may have been one individual bamboo plant!

Chiku is the term used for the smaller kinds of bamboos -- those that are shrub-like, or which grow close to the ground. Some chiku have enormous leaves. I have an Indocalamus tesselatus with leaves that get almost 24" long. In Asian cuisines they are sometimes used to wrap food before steaming or cooking. Bamboo leaves have a mildly antiseptic quality to them, so the large-leaf species such as Indocalamus were (and perhaps still are) used to wrap food for storage as well, when refrigeration is not available. I confess that I haven't used my bamboos' leaves for wrapping food, but I have experimented with them for food-steaming.

For anyone who has either a botanical or garden/horticultural curiosity about bamboo, or is a "crafty" type who'd like to get their hands on some bamboo wood for projects (besides making shinai! ), here are some books that I have found useful:

The Bamboos by F.A. McClure. Since Mr. McClure wrote this guide, the taxonomic classifications have changed quite a bit -- especially what is and is not included under the former umbrella coverage of the genus Arundinaria -- thanks to DNA research and the ever-clashing opinions of botanical taxonomists, but it is still a very nice intro to the botany of bamboo.

Bamboo for Gardens, by Ted Jordan Meredith. This is a well-illustrated, practical guide to growing and using bamboos in your own garden, or even in a pot. Ted Meredith was a self-professed rank amateur who fell into the cultivation of bamboos after a housing development sprouted up next door and he was desperate to restore his privacy. You will feel his pain as you also come to appreciate how he got hooked on bamboos for their aesthetic pleasures.

Japanese Gardening in Small Spaces: Tsuboniwa, by Isao Yoshikawa
Don't let the title mislead you. This absolutely wonderful little book by the absolutely wonderful master gardener-landscaper Yoshikawa, is a great introduction to working with bamboo, both as a living garden plant and as timber for building traditional Japanese fences. He provides soup-to-nuts, richly illustrated instructions that include curing and splitting bamboo culms, using bamboo as support stakes for trees, re-creating some of the most popular fence designs, and even traditional knot-tying to assemble the fencing. And, of course, he introduces the other main components of a small Japanese garden, providing clear instructions for those as well.

Some years ago, I was given some traditional metal bamboo splitters by my Japanese-gardener gentlemanfriend, and quickly became addicted to quarter-splitting the timber bamboo culms he trailered up from his Southern grove. Mr. Yoshikawa's book (along with my mentor's input) provided some guidance for how to use all those split culms! This book, in part, helped fan the flames of "bamboo geekdom" for me. and perhaps it might do the same for others.

Last edited by Cady Goldfield : 02-20-2012 at 12:17 PM.
  Reply With Quote