Big Heart Bamboo | Celebrating Australian Food and Agribusiness Innovations 2020
Thirty-odd years ago, farmer Durnford Dart planted 70 acres of bamboo on his Sunshine Coast hinterland property. His initial foray into the fresh bamboo shoot game was stymied when the market was flooded with suppliers and prices quickly dropped.
When daughter Becky was finishing up a science degree 25 years later, she noticed shoots from the forgotten crop coming up on the farm. Armed with a background in nutrition, Becky started researching and was drawn by bamboo’s potent medicinal and healthful qualities. She thought the time may have come to give the crop another go and kicked off Big Heart Bamboo.
Farming bamboo is an inexact science. Though there are two harvests a year, the notoriously unpredictable and temperamental nature of the crop makes it difficult to know when the shoots will arrive.
While Becky was reaping five or six tonnes each harvest, with no forewarning it was hard to move the product quickly. She depended on restaurants as a market for fresh shoots, but a lack of certainty around timing made it impossible for chefs to plan menus accordingly.
With the fresh product being problematic, Becky decided to start pickling. A whole new world opened up, but it meant learning different processes and endless jargon.
Pickled shoots were a new product, so it was hard to get advice, which was a source of frustration in the early stages. Becky’s collaboration with food technologist Bernard Parker of ParkerFood gave her the info and encouragement she needed to move ahead.
The pickled shoots are boiled twice in both salted and fresh water to remove the naturally occurring toxins and placed in a brine made of sulfide-free apple cider vinegar, turmeric juice, ginger juice, smoked black pepper and salt. The end point is a healthy ready-to-eat delicacy that makes a great addition to cheese plates and salads or can be enjoyed on its own.
The Big Heart Bamboo way of life starts with localised healthy eating, pushing Becky and the team to deliver high-quality product derived from local natural ingredients. The farm uses no sprays or chemicals and only organic soil inputs high in mineral content and healthy biota to deliver optimum soil health and nutrient-dense superior shoots.
Part of the 100-acre bamboo plantation that is Bamboo Australia, Big Heart Bamboo is testament to Durnford’s original vision and a natural progression for the product that simultaneously honours its legacy while considering its future impact.