New research shows that bamboo has a lot of untapped potential and could even help feed the world’s growing population by replacing dairy. The new paper, titled “Bamboo shoot and its food applications in last decade: An undervalued edible resource from forest to feed future people” and published in Trends in Food Science & Technology in February 2024 by a team of Chinese scientists, outlines that bamboo is a good protein source (as pandas show, being bamboo their main source of food), as it has a higher amino acid content than many other vegetables, on par with cow’s milk. Bamboo milk has not been developed yet, but it is a matter of time as it has all the potential for it.

The highlights of the study are that bamboo shoot, a typical non-wood forest product, is rich in proteins, carbohydrates (mainly fibres) and other micronutrients; the processing history, detailed nutritional composition, and the potential health benefits of bamboo shoots are discussed in the paper; many value-added food applications have been developed in last decade; there are challenges for the food industry in scaling up bamboo shoot-based functional food production. This latest point is because a lot of the bamboo plants are not edible, only part of the new shoots, which could lead to a lot of wastage, but more research could solve this. 

One of the reasons for its potential is how common this plant is in the wild, which already takes up nearly 3% of China’s total forest area. Bamboo is already used for food and other purposes, but, if all of the shoots were harvested, this could increase production by around 150 million tonnes. The good thing is that being bamboo a type of grass, that grows right back very quickly after being harvested, so it is considered a sustainable source. According to BBC Science Focus, bamboo is the fastest-growing plant on the planet, in some cases growing nearly a meter in just one day, and does not require many resources to grow. 

“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.