Three years after experimenting with its first crop of edible organic bamboo on an eight-acre plot where it usually grows citrus, Mixon Fruit Farms in Bradenton harvested its first crop last week. More than 100 pounds of organic asper bamboo were shipped to restaurants nationwide, including one in New York City's Chinatown to be used in traditional Chinese dishes.
The Mixon family is hoping for another harvest at the end of this week, with a goal of producing 300 pounds of fresh bamboo.
"Our main purpose for harvesting the bamboo was the fact that it's edible and contains many vitamins," says farm owner Janet Mixon. "We expect the tall stalks will be harvested for clothing, paper and flooring."
Mixon is the first farm in the nation to plant and harvest bamboo, according to OnlyMoso, the farm's partner company in this venture. OnlyMoso will harvest the bamboo at Mixon every seven to 10 days, and will export the crop around the world. Mixon Fruit Farms has become a resource for farmers nationwide since it embarked on this partnership. Janet Mixon says more than 250 farmers have visited her farm since planting began to determine the feasibility of planting and harvesting their own bamboo crops.
"OnlyMoso representatives said bamboo is a billion-dollar industry when importing from Asia," says Mixon. She says that, because citrus farmers already have irrigation systems in place and are struggling with their crops this season, it was the right time and place to start growing.
Mixon says the plant's woody stalks contain vitamins thought to help fight cancer and heart disease and boost the immune system. When cooked, its flavor and texture resemble an artichoke's, and its leaves can be steeped for tea.
Mixon says asper bamboo grows at a rapid rate, at three to four inches in diameter for optimal harvest. And since bamboo must be harvested piecemeal, there will always be a fresh crop growing.
"Walking through it is a really cool experience," says Mixon. "It is relaxing."
For more information, click here or call (800) 608-2525. Mixon Fruit Farms is located at 2525 27th St. E., Bradenton, and is open 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Saturday.