Thai native grows, sells bamboo here

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 3, 2014

When Nanchanok “Deamie” Wongphant-Worley was a girl growing up in Thailand, she would wake up in the morning and run to the woods or to the field to get food for the day.

In her small village, she said, there were no markets, so families worked every day for food.

As an adult living in Bangkok, she could access food everywhere, she said, adding that some of it was actually good.

Among the foods her family enjoyed was bamboo. As an adult living in Andalusia, she has purchased property on which bamboo grows well – no fertilizer, no chemicals, she said.


“It’s like the Chinese movie ‘Kung Fu,’ ” she said as she led a visitor into the dense growth of bamboo on her property inside the city limits.

In China, she explained, bamboo is considered a sign of good luck.

“If you have bamboo, you can use it for many purposes. For food, or you can use the wood for making things.”

In Alabama, bamboo is mostly used for fishing poles. Alabamians are missing out, she explained.

“There are many natural medicines from bamboo shoots,” she said, adding that it is a digestive aid. “It has high fiber, calcium and minerals. It will help clear the digestive system.”

Worley said the plant with which she was familiar in Thailand had a bitter taste when raw. The Alabama bamboo is sweet by comparison, she said.

She covers it slightly in water and cooks it for about 10 minutes, she said. But there are many other ways to use it – in salads, and other recipes. (For recipes, click here.)

The young plants, which have the most tender meat, are harvested from mid-March to mid-May, she said.

In the past, she has harvested bamboo and shipped it to those who don’t have access. But this year, she decided to freeze it for herself and her husband, Don Worley.

Wongphant-Worley has been in the United States since December of 2005, and said she misses food the most. However, she also grows many of the ingredients in Thai foods in her yard, especially seasonings like super-hot Thai pepper plants.

Despite that, she likes Andalusia very much.

“You can get anything you need here,” she said.