What is arrowroot?

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Arrowroot refers to the starch sourced from the roots of the various plants.  Traditional arrowroot comes from the Maranta arundinacea plant which can be found in the Caribbean region. Other plants such as the Zamia pumila found in Florida, USA and Pueraria lobata in Japan, are also used to create arrowroot starch. The tapioca from the cassava plant may even be used as an alternative starch to traditional arrowroot. This starch is mainly used for cooking as a thickening agent or alternative to flour.  Many people use arrowroot instead of cornstarch to improve the consistency and texture of gravies, sauces, and fillings for various pies and puddings.

As a cooking ingredient, many people like arrowroot because of its neutral flavor. The use of arrowroot basically provides texture and increased consistency to liquids and pastes without people having to worry about its effect on the taste.  As a starch, arrowroot is also gluten-free and works well with citrus flavoring.  Arrowroot starches are also easily digestible making them very easy to handle when cooking.  The starch will dissolve easily and freezes easily making it ideal to mix with various dishes and recipes.

Jamaica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are the main producers of arrowroot but other countries in the Caribbean region also cultivate the Maranta arundinacea plant.  The term “arrowroot” originated from the traditional use of the roots of the plant for treating wounds secondary to infection or poison from arrows. With the “roots” being rubbed on the wounds from the “arrow”, the term “arrowroot” was eventually coined referring to the starch produced from the same plant. Arrowroot is typically available in stores in starch or powder form.  There are some stores though that sell the actual “root” of the arrowroot plant. This root may be peeled off, sliced, or diced to become part of various recipes.

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