Bamboo shoots are the tender, two-week old shoots of the bamboo plant that are harvested before reaching one foot in height. They are most widely available canned, which are ready to eat, but fresh shoots need to be cooked first. Fresh bamboo shoots fall into two categories: spring harvested, which are tougher, and winter, which are far more tender and are considered a delicacy. When harvested, the shoots are crisp tender like asparagus and although they are bitter when raw, they have a mild, slightly grassy flavor that is also faintly reminiscent of corn when cooked.
To prepare fresh bamboo shoots, trim the fibrous outer layers and excess leaves, but reserve the tender leaves, as they are edible. Cook the shoots uncovered in boiling, salted water for about 20 minutes, and then slice them and add them to the dish of your choice. Canned bamboo shoots are ready to add and don't require cooking.