New Bamboo Shootsby Robert Thompson on 07/26/13
I have meant to add this message for the past two months and something has always come up. Back in June, I was visiting my friends at Scharko Farms. They have several stands of giant bamboo and the new shoots were all coming up. Until that day I hadn't realized that new bamboo shoots are soft - almost a rubbery texture. After getting permission, I gathered a large garbage bag full of the new shoots. Some of them had been broken off or had fallen over so I gathered those first. I took them home and easily cut them into small pieces and put them in my large pot with some lye and cook my first batch. They cooked in about two hours. The result was a velvet smooth amber pulp. Since the pulp was so fine, almost gelatinous, I expected it to be difficult to work with. Using a mold and deckle with a very fine brass screen, I pulled my first sheet. It couched easily with none of the sticking problems I anticipated.
The paper dried overnight and I was amazed by the results. The paper was very smooth and translucent and seemed very strong. I didn't realized how strong until later that same day, I tested the paper by soaking it in water. The paper kept it's shape and was completely malleable. I used an ancient textured brick to emboss an image onto the paper and it dried with a very deep and clear texture. Next, I used my etching press to imprint some images of fig and river birch leaves. The paper took the ink very well and the images on the translucent paper are beautiful.
And that same afternoon, I headed back to Scharko Farms with several buckets to gather more of the shoot. I brought them home and started quickly cooking them down. It turns out that the new shoots have a very short life span and start decaying immediately after cutting them. And they have a Terrible Smell when retting. I have four bags of the cooked pulp in the frig and am looking forward to next spring when the new shoots arrive again. I will be armed and ready to harvest. See the attached photos of the results....