Arrowroot is native to South America and the Caribbean. The local people use its root as a poultice for smallpox sores, and as an infusion for urinary infections. Arrowroot is used as a soothing demulcent and a nutrient of benefit in convalescence and for easing digestion. It helps to relieve acidity, indigestion and colic, and is mildly laxative. It may be applied as an ointment or poultice mixed with some other antiseptic herbs such as comfrey.
An extremely hardy perennial to 2 metres tall, shooting from a large purple/red, round rhizome/tuber that can be larger than a clasped fist. Tubers develop side shoots, forming a large mass of tubers that can be 60cm in diameter and weigh over 20kg.
Fleshy stalks, up to 1 metre long, shoot from eyes on the rhizome, and large, lush bright green leaves, 30-90cm long unfurl on thick stalks. Typical canna-shaped red flowers, but they are not as large as canna varieties that are grown as ornamentals. If planted in rich soil and given regular watering, this plant will grow vigorously, producing lush leaves and stalks and high yields of edible tubers
When tubers are large and aged, they can be quite fibrous. Arrowroot can be eaten raw, or steamed, roasted, barbecued, diced finely and added to stir-fries, casseroles, stews, soups, in fact in any meat or savoury dish. Arrowroot does not have a lot of flavour on its own, but added to other ingredients; it makes a useful mealextender.
In a casserole or stew, it will look and taste similar to potato. It does take a little longer than potato to cook and does not cook mushy. We like arrowroot peeled, and cut into thin chips, like for potato chips, and baked in the oven on an oiled tray, until crisp and golden. Tubers are 2% protein and 24% carbohydrate.
To make Arrowroot Flour peel tubers and cut into 2- 3cm cubes, mince cubes or put in a blender with a little cold water and blend to a pulp. Tip the pulp into a bucket or large bowl and add more water. After a few minutes, the flour will sink to the bottom and brown fibrous liquid will come to the top, which is carefully drained off. Add more water and stir, and more fibre will come to the top, to be drained off.
After several rinses, the water on top will be clear with no brown fibre remaining. Drain off the water, and pour the thick white flour 1-2cm thick onto trays to dry in the sun. When it is dry it will be soft and flaky; bottle and store ready for use. The flour keeps well and does not go rancid with age. The flour yield is usually about 1/4 to 1/5 of the original weight of the tubers. Flour is used as a thickener for gravies, sauces, slice fillings, lemon butter, custard and pie fillings; and as a part wheat-flour alternative in biscuits, etc.