Villa Quetzal

Villa Quetzal

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Could Bamboo be one of the best sources of well-being in our future?

What is it really?  Is it, a tree, a plant, or something else?

Bamboo is a kind of grass with a hard, woody, and hollow stem.  It is green and grows straight up.  The bamboo actually has leaves; however, there is not much energy going into them until the plant matures, then, and only then, the leaves start showing up on the top of the stalk.  In tropical climate, bamboo grows and stays green all year round.
The main stem of the bamboo is called culm; it is the support structure for the branches and leaves, culms are the main vascular system and storage organs.  The culm has sections called nodes, and the space between the nodes is called internode.  The nodes are always solid and the internodes are hollow.  The hollow internodes give the bamboo flexibility and the nodes give it the strength.
The Branching occurs at the nodes.
The culms have leaves, also called culm sheaths, and their purpose is to protect the new culms in the early stages of its growth.  When the new shoot is strong enough the culm sheath dries up and falls away.

Where the bamboo has its origins?

According to some records, seven thousand years ago, this “grass” was used to make arrows, paper, building materials, books, and as many other products needed by different cultures given the fact that bamboo was, and still is readily available, and a quickly renewable resource.
Many people have thought through the years that bamboo originated in China, mainly because there is where the first records of items made with bamboo were found. Subsequently, bamboo bicycles started to show up in India, as well as a variety of products and ornaments that rapidly spread through Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

Bamboo grows almost everywhere, except in super cold climates; nevertheless, some species are able to withstand frost in North Europe.  Asia is by far the biggest producer of bamboo products, with China as the biggest exporter. 

The main markets for bamboo products are the US and Europe.  The interest in bamboo cultivation is growing around the world, and many countries in Latin America have started to develop technologies for processing it; in view of the fact that almost 50% of the world’s bamboo biodiversity is from South and Central America.
Brazil has the largest number of species, around 134, followed by Venezuela with 68 species known.
There are some estimates showing that around 11 million hectares of Latin America are covered with bamboo.  That could represent a multibillion-dollar market.

Have you ever wondered how bamboo can reproduce so fast?

Bamboo can spread by root division, single node cuttings, and air layering.  If we remember that it is a kind of fast-growing grass, we need to be aware that once we have planted bamboo, we will start seeing individual stems or shoots emerging from the ground. They tend to reach their full diameter and grow to their total height in a single growing season of three to four months, depending on the climate.  During this period, each shoot grows vertically with no branching out until it reaches most of it maturity.  Then the branches extend from the nodes and start leafing out.  During the following year, the wall of the shoot starts hardening.  During the third year, it reaches full maturity and
Bamboo shoots or culms grow from the dense root rhizome system.    
There are two main categories: monopodial and sympodial. 
Monopodial rhizomes grow horizontally, and very often, at a surprising rate, reason why they are known as “runners” or “running bamboo.”  They generate open shoots with a good distance from each other, and they can be invasive.
Sympodial rhizomes are short and thick, and the shoots above the ground are close together in a compact clump, which expand evenly around its circumference.  They are known as clumping bamboo, the development of shoots around the core is predictable, and they are non-invasive.

Spiritual value given to the bamboo by ancestral people

Bamboo has a significant cultural and religious connotation such as the need to remain morally straight.   Bamboo makes a great symbol for spiritual living.   It is sturdy and strong, but also flexible without being easily breakable.  These are the qualities we need in our spirituality.Since bamboo is hollow, it could represent the hollowness of being a conduit to the divine for healing, compassion, guidance, wisdom, and self-awakening.
Another very important symbolism of the bamboo is in relation to developing a spiritual backbone.
 The Parable of the Chinese Bamboo Tree 
"In everything you do in your family, keep in mind the miracle of the Chinese bamboo tree. After the seed for this amazing tree is planted, you see nothing, absolutely nothing, for four years except for a tiny shoot coming out of a bulb.  During those four years, all the growth is underground in a massive, fibrous root structure that spreads deep and wide in the earth.  But, then in the fifth year the Chinese bamboo tree grows up to eighty feet!
Many things in family life are like the Chinese bamboo tree.  You work and you invest time and effort, and you do everything you can possibly do to nurture growth, and sometimes you don't see anything for weeks, months, or even years.  But, if you're patient, and keep working and nurturing, that "fifth year" will come, and you will be astonished at the growth and change you see taking place.
Patience is faith in action.  Patience is emotional diligence.  It's the willingness to step aside so that others can grow.  It reveals love.  It gives birth to understanding."

Types of Bamboo

There are hundreds of varieties growing around the world; however, for practical understanding, we can say there are two major classifications of species: clumpers and runners.
Clumpers grow from the soil in a slowly expanding tuft.  Clumpers are generally short, and slow growing. 
Runners send underground rhizomes to produce shoots several meters from the parent plant.

Uses of Bamboo and Economic Sustainability

People around the world use bamboo on everything they can think of, from construction to source of food.  For centuries, it has been used in the construction of houses in the eastern countries.  It was not until 1920 that started to get some traction in the western cultures because of a research conducted with the purpose of finding alternative material to replace some types of wood starting to become scarce.
Besides being used as construction material, bamboo is being used as an erosion control system.  Planting bamboo in tropical areas where the rain is abundant and the land is susceptible to erosion, allows the land to create a cohesion trough the connection of the thick, strong, and continuously growing root system.
Growing bamboo is considered eco-friendly agriculture because unlike other crops, it needs very little or no pesticides to grow, holds the soil together, and the debris falling from a growing clump of bamboo actually fertilizes the ground where the clump is growing.  Call it self-nourishment.

Different countries grow bamboo for different purposes:

Ornamental landscaping, gardens, and decorative items.
Food bamboo shoots.
Construction Material bamboo lumber, fencing, scaffolding, pipes, and roofing tiles.
Musical Instruments flutes, drums, and saxophones.
Furniture and crafts chairs, tables, sofas, armoires, picture frames, weapons, rugs, bed frames, blinds, curtains, baskets, and jewelry among others.

Some other practical uses of bamboo in agricultural farms are:
Irrigation pipes

Shade laths
Irrigation ditch linings

Edible Bamboo

Bamboo shoots are harvested in a similar fashion than asparagus; it is cut just at the underground stem.  The shoots are very common in Asian dishes, for example, in China; they love it stir-fry; in Indonesia, they boil it in thick coconut milk, and in the Philippines is the basic ingredient of a dish called lumpia.

In Costa Rica, the consumption of bamboo shoot is not as popular as it
is in the Asian countries; however, it is starting the make its appearance in some dinner tables.  Editable bamboo is a low-calorie source of potassium.
Always keep in mind that not all bamboo shoots can be eaten. Make sure you buy them from a trustworthy source.

It is simply unbeliebable to realize that "Bamboo" has alway been by our side, and always willing to give us everything we need. 
All we need to do is to apreciate it, study it, and decide how we can use it to improve our life.
It could be one of the best sources of well-being in our future!

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