Bamboo is one of the most commonly used plants and in recent years new applications have exploded, including the use of it's fibers in textiles (I have a very nice bamboo t-shirt) and even bicycle frames!
So what does that have to do with cooking you ask?!? Well bamboo also has many uses in the kitchen. The shoots are common in Chinese food, though they add a nice crunch, there's not a ton of flavor. I think the best use of bamboo in the kitchen is in cutting boards and kitchen floors. Reportedly 16% harder than Maple, it has a wonderfully soft feel and beautiful grain. Boards were quite expensive when I first saw them 6-7 years ago, but prices have dropped significantly in recent years. Check out the nice selection at Amazon.com.
Technically a grass, bamboo has all kinds of environmental advantages, including the fact that it can grow up to 60 feet in one year! Most gardeners will tell you that bamboo seems intent on world domination and it is generally considered sustainable. That said, bamboo is also subject to over-harvesting in some parts of the world. Check out this great New York Times article to learn more about this versatile natural resource.
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