Bamboo Shoots Two Ways : Ceviche and Picadillo


 Osa Eats

Barbara Burkhardt

Barbara is the owner of Jade Luna Home Made Ice Cream, downtown main street, and sells a wide variety of homemade delicacies at the Friday Matapalo farmer’s market at Martina’s Bar.  Contact her directly


When my friend Paul asked me if I were interested in writing this food column, I immediately said yes because it’s the wet/low season and I have time on my hands. This is not a recipe corner. If you want a recipe, Google it. If you want nutrition or calorie count, Google it. If you want to know what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow, Google it.

A Tico with a machete

A Tico with a machete

This column is a glimpse into my lifestyle and eating habits here in rural Costa Rica. When I moved here 15 years ago we had no big American style supermarket. There were no specialty imported products. The butcher would get a whole cow, and if you were there at the right time you might get some liver or the tenderloin, and that would be it until the next cow. Although we now have many more products available to us, they are cost prohibitive because of shipping and import taxes. In tourist season when there is cash flow we splurge, and in low season, many times we forage.

Peeling bamboo

Peeling bamboo

As I mentioned before it’s now the low season, and today is one of those days when we foraged our food from the woods. Here in the tropics bamboo is widely used as a cheap (or free) and ecologically responsible building material, but it’s not commonly eaten. I don’t know why, and I guess I’m letting my little secret out of the bag. Bamboo shoots are edible, delicious and nutritious!

The first thing you need is a Tico (Costa Rican Male) with a machete. If you can’t find one of those you’re probably not in Costa Rica, and will have to rely on your local Asian market.  Secondly you have to convince that Tico to hop the fence and trespass on your neighbors property (that’s usually not a problem) to chop and peel those bamboo shoots for you. There must be compensation because there are millions of tiny fibers that stick to the skin and itch. It’s a sweaty dirty job. Once the hard part is done the rest is a walk in the bosque!

cut up bamboo

Bamboo shoots cut, cooked, drained, and soaked overnight

Bamboo has a toxic substance called hydrocyanic acid, and so has to be cooked to remove this and any bitterness. Cook the fresh bamboo shoots with some rice bran or un-rinsed rice (the starch helps in removing the toxins by absorbing them) until tender (20¬30 minutes). Drain and soak in fresh cold water for 30 minutes to remove any bitterness. Drain and soak again, overnight in the refrigerator if possible. Now your shoots are ready to be used in your favorite salad, rice dish, vegetable stir-fry, or in today’s preparations, Bamboo shoot ceviche and picadillo!

Bamboo Shoot Ceviche

ceviche fixings2



  • 2 cups of small diced bamboo shoots
  • 1/2 small red onion finely chopped
  • 1/2 sweet red pepper finely diced
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup of fresh squeezed lemon/lime juice
  • 1 cup lemon/lime soda (sprite, fresca, 7 up, ginger ale, or soda water)
  • Sea salt, fresh ground black pepper and hot sauce to taste
  • Soda crackers, tortilla chips, or plantain chips to serve along side

Mix all ingredients (except crackers) together, adjust seasoning to taste and chill for a few hours for the flavors to marry. Impress your friends and Enjoy!

Note: This recipe also works for hearts of palm, fish, shrimp, squid, octopus, clams etc. For raw seafood double the lemon juice.


Bamboo Shoot Picadillo

ceviche fixings



  • 2 cups of small diced bamboo shoots
  • ½ small red onion finely chopped
  • ½ sweet red pepper finely diced
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 cloves minsed garlic
  • 1 Tlb. olive oil
  • 1 cup of chicken stock or water and 1 bullion cube
  • 1 tsp. achiote (optional)
  • 1 Tlb. Salsa lizano (optional)
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Sautee the garlic, onion, and pepper in olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes or until soft. Add bamboo, stock, achiote, and salsa lizano and cook over medium heat stirring occasionally for another 15 minutes or so until the liquid is absorbed. Add the cilantro and adjust seasoning. Serve with fresh hot tortillas!

Note: this recipe also works with fresh hearts of palm.

picadillo tacos

Bamboo-shoot picadillo on tortillas

Buen Provecho!

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