THE VERSATILE BAMBOO AND ITS USES
By ARMAND RODRIGUES
Technically, bamboo is not a tree. It is a woody grass that can include over 1,400 species. Cane and elephant-grass are related to it. Man has used it in different forms, for centuries. It is found in places as diverse as East Asia, India, Australia, China, Japan, Korea, Argentina, Chile, the Andes, Ecuador, Africa, Central America and Mexico. The name bamboo is believed to have originated with the Portuguese.
This plant can grow up to an astounding metre and half a day, and reach a height of thirty metres. An indoor version is relatively minuscule in size. Yellow bamboo is mainly ornamental and not as useful as its green cousin The seasoned green variety makes sturdy ladders, scaffolding, mats, sieves, toothbrush handles, combs, screens, musical instruments, shop-sticks, scoops, weapons, pulp for paper, supports and rafters for huts, slats for partitions and walls, and floating huts. Bamboo, soaked in water becomes pliable and can be used in several ways.
Thin bamboo makes for ideal fishing poles (rods) that are flexible and springy. In Brazil, the forest dwellers of the Amazon use bamboo blow-guns in hunting. Elsewhere, people make pea-shooters and pop-guns with bamboo. Interestingly, gorillas build “huts” in bamboo forests in the Congo and Uganda, like birds building a nest from grass or straw. Coarse bamboo leaves are a staple food for pandas, elephants, lemurs, gorillas and chimpanzees. Its tender shoots are a food source of sorts for humans and are used in dishes, soups and pickles. In the world of song and dance, Jamaican limbo-rock uses a bamboo rod. In the Philippines, a lively hopping dance entails dodging two clanging bamboo poles.
Anji County in China (Town of Bamboo) produces the most-valued bamboo poles in the world. Since bamboo is light-weight, strong and durable, it is ideal for pushing the small craft in shallow water. In ancient China, thin bamboo branches were made into pens to dip in ink and write or paint. A recent fad seems to be bamboo pillows, sheets, towels and cushions. In reality, they are made from rayon derived from bamboo fibres, with added chemicals.
Even as I scribble, the bamboo shoot has really shot up in stature!