Food & Drink

A tasty new crop is growing in Bradenton. Here’s how bamboo cuisine is becoming a reality

Not-so-secret ingredient in these dishes was bamboo

Not-so-secret ingredient in these dishes was bamboo. Mixon Fruit Farms, 2525 27th St. E. in Bradenton, hopes to harvest a ton or more this year.
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Not-so-secret ingredient in these dishes was bamboo. Mixon Fruit Farms, 2525 27th St. E. in Bradenton, hopes to harvest a ton or more this year.

Mixon Fruit Farms on Thursday offered a taste of what is to come from its bamboo crop.

Chefs turned young bamboo shoots, which had been peeled, steamed and shredded, into ingredients in chicken curry, spinach dip and chicken stir fry.

Those who had an opportunity to sample the dishes at Mixon’s, which is located at 2525 27th St. E., gave the chefs high marks and came back for more.

“It tastes like artichoke. I never thought I would be eating bamboo,” one customer said.

Chef Ellee Yang earlier said the same thing about the mild taste of fresh bamboo, which is different than the taste of canned bamboo.

“Chopped up, it tastes very much like artichoke,” Yang said as she prepared the spinach dip, using a recipe on a Knorr spinach dip packet.

Bamboo has a mild — or little — flavor but brings texture, anti-oxidants and vitamins to the table, Yang said.

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Calvin Yang holds a pair of bamboo shoots harvested Thursday at Mixon Fruit Farms, 2525 27th St. E., Bradenton. The bamboo is being grown for food and is an emerging crop in Florida. James A. Jones Jr. jajones1@bradenton.com

“I think it is a great idea,” Yang said of the introduction of bamboo at Mixon Fruit Farms. “It grows so well here in Florida. It is a great opportunity for farmers.”

Mixon Fruit Farms planted its first bamboo in 2017 in response to greening and other diseases that were threatening Florida’s citrus crop.

This year, Mixon Fruit Farms expects to harvest about one ton of bamboo for consumer consumption, Janet Mixon said Thursday.

New crop is a response to devastation of Florida citrus crop by greening and canker.

Mixon Fruit Farms has been a pioneer not only in growing bamboo for food but also in interesting other farmers around Florida in planting bamboo.

Since November 2018, more than 200 farmers have visited Mixon Fruit Farms to explore growing the new crop, Mixon said.

Mixon Fruit Farms primarily sells to OnlyMoso USA Corp., but is also selling bamboo independently as well.

OnlyMoso is now building a bamboo processing plant in Wauchula, company official Roberto Seminara said of the growth of the young industry.

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Ellee Yang prepares spinach dip using shredded bamboo as an ingredient Thursday at Mixon Fruit Farms, 2525 27th St. E., Bradenton. The bamboo is being grown for food and is an emerging crop in Florida. James A. Jones Jr. jajones1@bradenton.com

Alex Vazquez, executive culinary director for Mattison Restaurants, was one of the observers — and tasters — at Thursday’s harvest and culinary event.

“We try to source local products. It’s nice to find something sourced locally,” Vazquez said.

As chefs were preparing their samples, Mixon led a tram full of shoppers to Mixon’s bamboo acreage to watch the young shoots being harvested.

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Customers line up for a sample of chicken curry made with bamboo Thursday at Mixon Fruit Farms, 2525 27th St. E., Bradenton. The bamboo is being grown for food and is an emerging crop in Florida. James A. Jones Jr. jajones1@bradenton.com

The shoots grew to their full 18-inch height in just one week, but left alone, they would quickly grow to 12 feet or so.

Even though the shoots were young, the exterior was so woody and hard that a power saw was needed to cut them off at ground level. Before they can become food, an inch or more of the woody covering would have to be shaved away to reach the tender hearts.

Mixon Fruit Farms has added bottled bamboo spreads and sauces to its shelves, and later this year may add freshly harvested shoots as well.

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Mixon Fruit Farms, 2525 27th St. E., Bradenton, is now selling bottled bamboo spreads and sauces. Mixon Fruit Farms is also growing bamboo as a food source. James A. Jones Jr. jajones1@bradenton.com

“The bamboo is really tasty and I have actually added some of the pesto to peanut butter for my grandchildren,” Mixon said.

For more information about Mixon Fruit Farms, call 941-748-5829 or visit mixon.com.

For more information about OnlyMoso USA, visit onlymoso.com.

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