Once again, I marvel at the things I learn while doing research for my novels. This time around it was bamboo, a plant I have always loved.
For instance, I did not know that the shoots (new culms that come out of the ground) of bamboo contain a toxin taxiphyllin (a cyanogenic glycoside) that produces cyanide in the gut. However, proper processing renders them edible. They are used in numerous Asian dishes and broths, and are available in supermarkets in various sliced forms, in both fresh and canned versions. The golden bamboo lemur ingests many times the quantity of the taxiphyllin-containing bamboo that would kill a human.
Bamboo, like true wood, is a natural composite material with a high strength-to-weight ratio useful for structures.
Since the fibers of bamboo are very short (less than 3 mm (0.12 in)), they are not usually transformed into yarn by a natural process. The usual process by which textiles labeled as being made of bamboo are produced uses only rayon made from the fibers with heavy employment of chemicals.
Bamboo was in widespread use in early China as a medium for written documents. The earliest surviving examples of such documents, written in ink on string-bound bundles of bamboo strips (or “slips”), date from the fifth century BC during the Warring States period. However, references in earlier texts surviving on other media make it clear that some precursor of these Warring States period bamboo slips was in use as early as the late Shang period (from about 1250 BC).
Bamboo has often been used to construct weapons and is still incorporated in several Asian martial arts.
A bamboo staff, sometimes with one end sharpened, is used in the Tamil martial art of silambam, a word derived from a term meaning “hill bamboo”.
Staves used in the Indian martial art of gatka are commonly made from bamboo, a material favoured for its light weight.
A bamboo sword called a shinai is used in the Japanese martial art of kendo.
Bamboo is used for crafting the bows, called yumi, and arrows used in the Japanese martial art kyudo.
Bamboo is sometimes used to craft the limbs of the longbow and recurve bow used in traditional archery, and to make superior weapons for bowhunting and target archery.
The first gunpowder-based weapons, such as the fire lance, were made of bamboo.
Bamboo was used in East and South Asia as a means of torture.
Bamboo has long been used in the making of musical instruments.
Bamboo has traditionally been used to make a wide range of everyday utensils and cutting boards, particularly in Japan.
Bamboo has a long history of use in Asian furniture. Chinese bamboo furniture is a distinct style based on a millennia-long tradition, and bamboo is also used for floors due to its high hardness.
Several manufacturers offer bamboo bicycles, surfboards, snowboards, and skateboards.
Due to its flexibility, bamboo is also used to make fishing rods. The split cane rod is especially prized for fly fishing. Bamboo has been traditionally used in Malaysia as a firecracker called a meriam buluh or bamboo cannon. Four-foot-long sections of bamboo are cut, and a mixture of water and calcium carbide are introduced. The resulting acetylene gas is ignited with a stick, producing a loud bang. Bamboo can be used in water desalination. A bamboo filter is used to remove the salt from seawater.
Many ethnic groups in remote areas that have water access in Asia use bamboo that is 3–5 years old to make rafts. They use 8 to 12 poles, 6–7 m (20–23 ft) long, laid together side by side to a width of about 1 m (3.3 ft). Once the poles are lined up together, they cut a hole crosswise through the poles at each end and use a small bamboo pole pushed through that hole like a screw to hold all the long bamboo poles together. Floating houses use whole bamboo stalks tied together in a big bunch to support the house floating in the water. Bamboo is also used to make eating utensils such as chopsticks, trays, and tea scoops.
~ Information courtesy of Wikipedia.com
~ Image courtesy of Bamboozled | Natural Awakenings Central Ohio http://www.nacentralohio.com