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I have just discovered lately this wonderful alternative to cotton called bamboo. It can be made into soft towel and is the most eco-friendly thing you can you have.
When I first heard of it I wandered if I am going to be chased down the street by pandas but no worries is safe as bamboo is very easy to grow so therefore pandas will never run out of it.
When I first touched a piece of bamboo towel I was surprised on how silky it feels, at first I though this could have been perhaps mixed with synthetic fibre or even silk as it moves in a strange wavy way and was rather thin but the beautiful silkiness of it made me very curious in trying it further. I used this bamboo towel to begin with to dry my hands off and I was surprised to see how fast and easy the dampness is absorbed, then the bamboo towel became my favourite face towel and it even replaced my thick organic cotton one I was happily using.
Bamboo is far superior to anything I have every tried now I must get further towels and perhaps even a bathrobe made of this charming bamboo cloth, my only problem is the cost of it, it just does not come cheap compared with let's say cheap Wilkinson cotton towels and is not easy to come by it either. I never seen bamboo towels items in any shops, the only place to buy bamboo is over the internet.
I love pampering myself and I could not live without my bathing rituals and I think a luxury like a soft bamboo towel is a must for me at the moment.
One thing you must know about bamboo is that it is the most fast growing plant in the world. I think that says enough, it's ecological benefits would do it can be used in addition for clothing, paper, décor items, constructions, medicine- in china is used in treating infection efficiently, and apparently is also edible.
I think one of the reasons in so expensive at the moment is because is an new unknown concept for Europe so therefore is not much demand for it so is treated as in a rarity luxury commodity but all this can change as this easy growing plant can be used to it's full potential.
Having owned a couple of bamboo plants for a while I thought I would tell you about them.
----What is Bamboo----
Well bamboos are part of the grass family and are evergreen woody perennial plants and come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, all in all there are around 1000 different species of bamboo and no don't panic I am not going to mention all of them.
Bamboo is formed of stems which range in height from a few centimetres up to 40meters, each stem is jointed and looks like it has been glued together where there was a break but this is not the case, the joints are formed a fairly regular intervals. The larger bamboos look a bit more like trees due to their size and often get referred to as bamboo trees. Another interesting fact is that bamboo does actually flower but this again varies by species with some species only flowering every 28 to 120 years, yes this is correct, imagine you may never see a particular bamboo plant flower in your lifetime.
The rate of growth for bamboo also varies widely with your normal garden bamboo growing between 3 to 5 cms per day but there are some species that can grow up to 100cm per day.
----Where does bamboo grow----
I am sure you now all have visions of cute pandas chomping on a bit of bamboo but let me tell you that bamboo, dependant on the variety can be found from a range of cold mountains to tropical areas from Northeast Asia through the Himalaya down to northern Australia and even Antarctica also my house and garden.
Be warned this is an invasive plant and can be difficult to control which is why the one I have in my garden is in a large pot. There are two main ways in which your normal garden variety grows, either by clumping where the plant tends to stay fairly well in one area or the more invasive 'running' where the roots will spread out all over your garden and it is really hard to remove once it has established itself and left unattended, a bit like a weed
----My Bamboo Plants----
Now at some point we all must have watched a garden make over programme or too and these seem to favour some of the giant bamboos and I have a baby one of these in my garden. Why do I have a baby one, well cost, a fully grown giant bamboo, you know the one, comes in a large point and over 6ft tall, costs over £60.00 as most garden centres, however, I found a baby one in Wilkinsons a couple of years for only £2.99 and though would have a go and see if I could coax it to grow to its adult size. When I bought this is was a scrawny looking thing with a few shoots and less leaves, however, 2 uears later it has filled out quite a bit and more than trebled in size and filled out, though I think it will be a couple more years before it has grown to its full height, I am hoping for a 6ft tall plant that will sway in the breeze in the summer and hear the gentle rustle of the leaves, maybe I am hoping for too much as I usually have black fingers and manage to kill most plants.
I also have my new bamboo purchased last weekend, this one is an indoor variety and is a 'lucky bamboo' and is very easy to care for, this particular one came from Marks & Spencer is a lovely tall thin vase with a bulbous bottom, looks a bit like you could drink a yard of ale from it, with white stones in the bottom and water. The care instructions where easy to follow and even I can't this one wrong, My Bamboo likes light but not direct midday sun, does not need feeding and just needs his water changed once a week, easy.
This plant is unusual to look at and come is long stems and I have two in my vase, apparently this is luck for love, one of the stems is totally straight but the other is grown in a spiral and you may sometimes here this referred to a curly bamboo, there are no roots or soil at all and basically looks as though I have been out and cut two stems of bamboo fresh.
----Practical uses for bamboo---
Yes there are some uses for bamboo it is not just for eating by pandas. Bamboo can be used in construction and when pre-treated can form a sort of very hard wood to be used in the construction of buildings, fences, bridges, toilets, walking sticks and canoes to name a few. More likely in the UK we will see chopsticks, food steamers and furniture made from bamboo.
Another strange use is the for flooring in shipping containers and as bamboo grows so quickly this is more environmentally friendly then using wooden planks from trees.
Bamboo can be carved into works of art, used as flooring, the bamboo is steamed, flattened and the glued together for this purpose but there should be a warning with bamboo floors as they can easily be infested by wood boring insects such as wood worm.
-----Cooking with Bamboo----
Now not only can we make chopsticks and steamers out of bamboo we can also eat it. Most commonly bamboo is found is a Chinese dish and the bamboo used for this is the new shoots as they are still soft and tender. You can find bamboo is most supermarkets these days and often in tins and they are a great addition to a stir fry I find to give that lovely crunchy texture, thought they do not have a strong flavour they are not tasteless either.
Pickled bamboo - yes pickled, I have never tried this and cannot imagine what I would eat it with but the thought of a cheese and bamboo pickle sandwich could be off putting.
Bamboo leaves are also used in cooking and can be used as a wrapping for rice or a Chinese dumpling similar to the way a vine leaf is used.
----Myths and Legends surrounding bamboo----
There are some Asian cultures that believe that humanity emerged from a bamboo stem. In the Philippines the myth is that man and women emerged from a slit open bamboo stem on an island created after the battle of elemental forces of Sky and Ocean. In Malaysia the story is that a man dreams of a beautiful woman whilst sleeping under a bamboo and when he woke up he split the bamboo and a beautiful woman emerged. There are lots of other similar myths basically on the same theme in Japan, Vietnam and Hawaii all involving relationships between men and women.
Well I hope you have enjoyed reading this and learnt something about the humble bamboo plant.
Pandas love it. Why don't you?