Arrowroot is a starch obtained from the rhizomes (rootstock) of several tropical plants, traditionally Maranta arundinacea, but also Florida arrowroot from Zamia integrifolia, and tapioca from cassava (Manihot esculenta), which is often labelled as arrowroot. Polynesian arrowroot or pia (Tacca leontopetaloides), and Japanese arrowroot (Pueraria lobata), also called kudzu, are used in similar ways.
Arrowroot will soon be found in Mother Gaia’s Bath Melts, Deodorants, Shampoos, and Conditioners.
The plant is propagated from other rhizomes and cultivation takes place at elevations up to 300 meters on the eastern and windward facing side of the highlands of St. Vincent. Cultivation covers an area of about 3,700 ha and some 80% of the crop is grown by small farmers. The arrowroot plant is very hardy and not very demanding in its requirements. St. Vincent, particularly the north-east coast, provides the ideal growing conditions for optimal yields; deep, well drained, slightly acidic soils and a hot, humid climate.
Arrowroot tubers contain about 23% starch. They are first washed, and then cleaned of the paper-like scale. The scales must be carefully removed before extracting the starch because they impart a disagreeable flavor. After removing the scale, the roots are washed again, drained and finally reduced to a pulp by beating them in mortars or subjecting them to the action of a wheel rasp. The milky liquid thus obtained is passed through a coarse cloth or hair sieve and the pure starch, which is insoluble, is allowed to settle at the bottom. The wet starch is dried in the sun or in a drying house. The result is a powder, the “arrowroot” of commerce, that is quickly packed for market in air-tight cans, packages or cases.
Arrowroot was very popular in the Victorian era, and Napoleon supposedly said the reason for the British love of arrowroot was to support the commerce of their colonies. It can be consumed in the form of biscuits, puddings, jellies, cakes, hot sauces, and also with beef tea, milk or veal broth. Kudzu arrowroot (Pueraria lobata) is used in noodles in Korean and Vietnamese cuisine. In the Victorian era it was used, boiled with a little flavoring added, as an easily digestible food for children and people with dietary restrictions. This wildly useful food starch was cultivated as early as 5,000 B.C., and was originally known as aru-aru, defined as “meal of meals,” named as such by the Arawak. This now-extinct people of the Caribbean islands were the first to use this handy plant and found it had many useful properties and applications. Another derivation of the name “arrowroot” came from its ability to heal wounds of people shot by poisonous arrows in the Central American region.
Arrowroot makes clear, shimmering fruit gels and prevents ice crystals from forming in homemade ice cream. It can also be used as a thickener for acidic foods, such as Asian sweet and sour sauce. It is used in cooking to produce a clear, thickened sauce, such as a fruit sauce. It will not make the sauce go cloudy, like cornstarch, flour, or other starchy thickening agents would.
The lack of gluten in arrowroot flour makes it useful as a replacement for wheat flour for those with a gluten intolerance. It is, however, relatively high in carbohydrates and low in protein (approximately 7.7%) and does not provide a complete substitute for wheat flour in bread-making.
Arrowroot thickens at a lower temperature than flour or cornstarch, is not weakened by acidic ingredients, has a more neutral taste, and is not affected by freezing. It does not mix well with dairy, forming a slimy mixture. It is recommended that arrowroot be mixed with a cool liquid before adding to a hot fluid. The mixture should be heated only until the mixture thickens and removed immediately to prevent the mixture from thinning. Overheating tends to break down arrowroot’s thickening property. Two teaspoons of arrowroot can be substituted for one tablespoon of cornstarch, or one teaspoon of arrowroot for one tablespoon of wheat flour.
Beyond thickening food and healing arrow punctures it’s also a great anti-inflammatory. It serves as a gluten-free, healthier alternative to cornstarch, as it’s both GMO-free and vegan. Also, beneficial for sensitive digestive systems, arrowroot is one of the easiest starches for the body to digest. It’s an excellent homeopathic treatment for various common medical issues and is also a natural immunity booster. Arrowroot can be another tool you use to fight inflammation and fight disease.