This versatile plant in Goa receives no fanfare

In Goa, bamboo has multiple uses and is edible, too
Ornamental Golden Bamboo (left) and a bamboo shoot in the ground (right)
Ornamental Golden Bamboo (left) and a bamboo shoot in the ground (right)Gomantak Times

The Mongol race loves it and so do people in the Konkan region. The variety and even the species may be different, but a bamboo shoot is a bamboo shoot. In the local Konkani language, the new bamboo shoot, arising from the rhizome in the ground, is simply known as kill.

Goans enjoy this kill during this part of the year. It is already available in the little shops along NH-748 near Priol, in Ponda taluka, although I am yet to see it in the Mapusa market.

Ornamental Golden Bamboo (left) and a bamboo shoot in the ground (right)
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Unlike the coconut palm, the bamboo is a tall, tree-like grass belonging to the same family Poaceae (formerly known as Graminae) as cereals and millets. The sub-family Bambusoidae has 115 genera and about 1,400 species of bamboo, most of them in tropical and sub-tropical Asia.

The largest number of species are in South-East Asia, where bamboo finds itself in a variety of foods and household items from cups to planks as wall panels. Floor mats, chairs, sofas, storage bins, baskets, trellis, pergolas and ladders made from bamboo are common sights.

Ornamental Golden Bamboo (left) and a bamboo shoot in the ground (right)
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This was not entirely rare in Goa and the rest of the Konkan. Items (and words) like vhojem, panttem, panttulo, vhol’li, sup, ainddo, dali, konddo, koronn, koddo, sovyem, mandri, dovlo, nisonn, danddo, fottas, etc are still in use.

Plastics have replaced bamboo and denied an entire community of its livelihood in the craft and trade. There is an army regiment in India by its name, but the usage of the caste name is otherwise prohibited by law.

Walking sticks and police batons (or lathi) are also made of bamboo. So are ladders used by the linesmen of the electricity department.

Some products made of bamboo
Some products made of bamboo Gomantak Times


Bamboo stems are cylindrical with a woody ring on the outside at every node. Older bamboos produce sideshoots or branches that are locally known as shitarim. Some of them are stout enough to be used as a fishing rods by anglers.

The node is like a disc, while the internode is generally a hollow cylinder. The hollow bamboo may be made into a water pipe or into a pipe-gun, like the local fottas, famously used in Goa on the island of Divar during the Bonderam festival in the second half of August. The diameter and the circumference (3.14 x diameter) varies greatly between the species.

Ornamental Golden Bamboo (left) and a bamboo shoot in the ground (right)
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Some species have a bulging internode and are known as ‘Buddha’s Belly bamboos’.

The bamboo may be as short as 10 cm (four inches) to as tall as 40 m (one hundred and thirty feet). Many of us are familiar with the slender ‘bamboo grass’ grown as an ornamental in a pot. The Vellu used for scaffolding by painters and construction workers is, perhaps, the biggest bamboo we know.

A bamboo water pipe
A bamboo water pipeGomantak Times

The pulp of bamboo, specially Dendrocalamus strictus and Golden bamboo Bambusa bambos, is used to make paper.

Bamboo flowers only once in its lifetime. The flowering may be in seven to a hundred and twenty years according to the species. The year the bamboo flowers was associated with famines before the globalization of the food market.

Bamboo seeds are now used as a gluten-free grain. Pandurang Bhat from Udupi faithfully brings his ‘bamboo rice’ for sale at the annual Konkan Fruit Fest in summer. There is a lot to learn about bamboo.

The author is a former Chairman of the GCCI Agriculture Committee, CEO of Planter's Choice Pvt Ltd, Additional Director of OFAI and Garden Superintendent of Goa University, and has edited 18 books for Goa & Konkan

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