Finds: Green, utilitarian bamboo products – Statesman Journal

From time to time, I offer our readers reviews of unique products for the kitchen or dining table that come tomy attention. The latest are a selection of well-made and useful kitchen tools and serving pieces that are not only functional and attractive, but also made in an environmentally responsible manner.
The products are from a company called Bambu, based in China and founded by Oregonians Jeff Delkin, his wife, Rachel Speth, and a college classmate of Jeff’s, Chris Kidwell.
The company’s bamboo products are made only from bamboo that is sustainably harvested and free of fertilizers or pesticides. The bamboo is from certified organic sources, and the manufacturing process uses only water-based, formaldehyde-free adhesives. The company also supports fair trade practices. So you can have comfort in knowing that their manufacturing partners must meet requirements for quality craftsmanship, environmental protection, and acceptable labor practices. Independent auditing firms inspect their manufacturers for worker health and safety, and for environmental protection.
Even though most of the product line is made from bamboo, some products are made from cork and other natural materials, like coconut shells.
One of the Bambu products that piqued my interest was a cork cutting board that I first saw demonstrated at a food bloggers conference in Seattle.
We had several families help us test this cutting board and found that it’s a must-have in your array of cutting boards. The cork is firm, but gives slightly to the pressure of a knife while resisting damage from the blade. This makes the board great for cutting vegetables and herbs that tend to fight you on a hardwood cutting board.
Vegetables that are stringy, like celery, are a breeze to chop on this board. Also, vegetables that have a slippery skin, like tomatoes, are easy to slice cleanly on this board. The board’s cork surface actually helps grip vegetables that might be slippery from being washed, and the slightly giving nature of the board means that the blade can more easily slice through the skin of the tomato. This same property makes chopping all kinds of herbs a snap.
All of our testers loved the board for cutting vegetables and herbs. According to the company, the cork board also helps keep knife blades sharp longer, is impermeable to liquids, and is naturally hypo-allergenic, with anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties. The composition cork is free of PVCs or formaldehyde. We were all nervous about using the cutting board for meats and fish but were assured by Maura Sell, a representative of Bambu, that the board is perfectly safe for meats and seafood. Maura also said the cork is sustainably harvested without damage to the cork trees. Many home cooks prefer having different cutting boards for different purposes. Both of our other family testers preferred using a cutting board that could be washed in the dishwasher for cutting meats and seafood, and had separate boards for cutting vegetables.
Another cork item we tested was their cork fabric bowl. We loved the soft durable bowl, which conforms to the shape of what’s placed inside it. We found it an ideal bowl for keeping easy-to-bruise fruits and vegetables like bananas and tomatoes in. The soft cork is flexible, durable, washable, and it gently cradles the fruit and vegetables. You could also use it for bread, or in the bathroom for holding toiletries and towels. It’s truly multi-purpose. You can either hand-wash the bowl with soap and water, or toss it in the washing machine in the gentle cycle and let it air dry.
Bambu also sent us several bamboo products to test, including a beautiful light coiled bamboo bowl, small bamboo tongs, and three kitchen utensils: a risotto spoon, a kitchen spoon, and a spatula from their “Give It a Rest” line.
The coiled bamboo bowl is made from coiled bamboo, shaped by hand, coated with multiple layers of a food-safe lacquer from the cashew nut tree, then finished with durable food-safe lacquer. If you were to judge from the weight of these bowls you would be deceived into thinking that they’re brittle or easily breakable. To the contrary, these lightweight and beautiful bowls are strong and can easily hold anything from salad to pasta. The inside of the bowl reveals the beautiful ring-like pattern of the coiled bamboo while the exterior is coated in durable, scratch-resistant finishes that are available in 2 colors: kiwi and slate. You can also get it in what’s called a naked natural finish so that the coils are visible on the outside as well as the inside of the bowl. These bowls aren’t dishwasher safe but easily clean up with soap and water. This was one of our favorite test items and ended up permanently in the home of one of our tester families. All of the testers found the bowl incredibly versatile, using it for cold items like fruit salad, tossed salads, and hot foods like pasta. We were nervous about putting pasta in the bowl, but the bowls are stain resistant from the multiple coats of food-safe lacquer.
Equally popular and very functional were the “Give It a Rest” utensils we tested. Unlike the normal wooden spoons and spatulas, these utensils were designed with a notch that protruds from the surface of the backside, creating a natural rest for them. It’s the perfect marriage of form and function. This kept the spatula and spoon surface off the counters and kept our counters clean from dripping oil, pasta sauce, and whatever else we were stirring with the utensils. It also meant that we weren’t having to crowd our small spoon rest, which would hold only one utensil at a time, anyway. The utensils won’t scratch non-stick pans and pots, and the spatula’s angled shape was handy for scraping saucy foods into serving pieces. The risotto spoon, with a hole cut out of its middle, made it easier to stir risotto in the pot without mashing up the grains of rice had we used a regular spoon without a hole in the center. The hole allowed some of the risotto to pass through the stirring surface of the spoon.
We found the small bamboo tongs useful for toast, picking up ice cubes for cocktail glasses, and for getting things like small pickles, cocktail olives, onions and cherries out of jars.
Another fun item sent to us to test were bowls not made of bamboo, but coconuts. Having grown up in Thailand and eaten a lot of coconut and drinking its juice, it never occurred to me that if you removed the outer husk you could create uniquely shaped bowls from the coconut. No two coconuts, and therefore bowls, are the same. Each has a distinctive shape. Each coconut shell is cleaned, polished and finished with a durable food-safe lacquer, and accented with an exterior color finish to create the bowl. We found the finish scratch-resistant, and the sizes of the bowls were just right for an individual serving of cereal or fruit. For parties, we put nuts and other finger foods in them and set them around the living room for our guests. The brightly-colored bowls drew a lot of attention. The bowls aren’t dishwasher safe but easily clean up with soap and water, and the interior finish makes them stain resistant.
The last items we tested were part of a line of disposable bamboo veneerware plates. These plates are biodegradable and compostable. They come in square and round shapes in packages of 8 large or small plates. The large plates are big enough to use as dinner plates for picnic lunches, and offer an attractive option for outdoor entertaining for parties that’s a step up from paper plates. They’re sturdy enough to hold things like barbecued chicken or ribs without any problem. The small plates are perfect for salads or dessert. Although they’re meant for single use, we found that they clean up easily with soap and water, and can be dried and reused a few times. A word of caution on these: the manufacturer does not recommend putting them in the microwave to warm up food.
Victor Panichkul is food, wine and beer columnist for the Statesman Journal. Reach him at Vpanichkul@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6704, follow at Facebook.com/WillametteValleyFoodWine and on Twitter @TasteofOregon.
Where to buy
Bambu products are available at Sur la Table and online at bambuhome.com.
Price list:
The following are prices of items we tested:


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