Queensland Arrowroot

Tonielle Christensen Edible Plants, Land & Nature Stewardship

Queensland Arrowroot


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Common Name:  Queensland Arrowroot, Edible Canna, Achira, Achera, Dong Rieng, Ganyong, Sakhu Chin, Zembu, Maraca.

Latin Name:  Canna edulis.

Origin:  South America.

Description (what it looks like):  A hardy, clump-forming and heavily producing perennial up to 2m tall, shooting from a large red-skinned, round rhizome (tuber) often larger than a clasped fist.  Lush bright green leaves, 30-90cm long which unfurl on thick stalks.  Red flowers, with some varieties orange/yellow.  Similar in its appearance to its close relative, the ornamental Cannas.

Uses (function):  Arrowroot was one of the first plants to have been domesticated in the Andean region.  Leaves can be fed to chickens, goats, cows and donkeys.  Tubers can be cooked and fed to pigs.  Provides an excellent ongoing source of chop and drop mulch, or can be used as a weed barrier and low garden windbreak.  Edible living fence or planted alongside water on steep banks.  Protect from constant animal foraging, otherwise it will destroy the plant.  Plant next to the chicken coop to provide shade.  Can be grown in a large pot for easy harvesting.

Nutritional value:  Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, & C.  The tuber has a high potassium content and 1-3% protein.  The young leaves and shoots are nutritious and contain 10% protein.

Growing details (propagation, seed etc):  Propagation is easy.  Cut a piece from the rhizome with an ‘eye’ and cover with moist soil.  Space 30 cm apart.  Divide after several months if more plants are required.  Under ideal conditions, rhizomes can be harvested from 6 months.

Best time to grow:  Spring, summer and early autumn.

Soil:  Any, breaks up clay.  Grows better in sandy loam with a neutral pH (6.6-7.3).  Some rhizomes can develop above the soil.  This is an indication the soil is poor and not to its liking.

Sun:  Full sun to partial shade.  Warm, sunny position is ideal.

Water:  Hardy in drought and flooding.  Grows abundantly in the wet season.  Dormant in winter if not watered.  If irrigated, it will continue to grow all year long.

How to eat it:  Some varieties eaten raw. Most are steamed, roasted, barbecued, diced finely, added to stir-fries, casseroles, stews, soups, in many meat or savory dishes. Some are ground down into a powder and used as a flour and thickening agent.  Does not possess a lot of flavor on its own, but absorbs flavours and makes a useful meal-extender.  Looks and tastes similar to potato.  Takes longer to cook, yet holds its shape.  Peel and cut into thin chips, add garlic salt and bake or fry until crispy and golden.  Wrap food in the leaves to steam, similar to banana leaves.  The tubers are best harvested to eat when still small, about the size of a tennis ball and the skin is still white.  Young tubers have the best flavour; older ones are fibrous.

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