The plant is naturalized in Florida, but it is chiefly cultivated in the West Indies (Jamaica and St. Vincent), Australia, Southeast Asia, and South Africa. Because of this, Napoleon supposedly said the real reason for the British love
Cultivation and Preparation
The roots are dug when they are about a year old. When good, they contain about 23% starch. They are first washed, then cleaned of the paper-like scale, washed again, drained and finally reduced to a pulp by beating them in mortars or subjecting them to the action of the wheel-rasp. The milky liquid thus obtained is passed through a coarse cloth or hair sieve and the pure low-protein mucilaginous starch allowed to settle at the bottom as an insoluble powder. This powder, dried in the sun or in drying houses, is the "arrow-root" of commerce and it is at once packed for market in air-tight cans, packages or cases.
Arrow-root has in the past been quite extensively adulterated with potato starch and other similar substances, so care is needed in selection and buying. The genuine article is a light, white powder (the mass feeling firm to the finger and crackling like newly fallen snow when rubbed or pressed), odorless when dry, but emitting a faint, peculiar odor when mixed with boiling water, and swelling on cooking into perfect jelly, very smooth in consistencyin contradistinction to adulterated articles mixed with potato flour and other starches
Arrow-root is used as an article of diet in the form of biscuits, puddings, jellies, cakes, etc., and also with beef tea, milk or veal broth, noodles in Korean cuisine, or boiled with a little flavoring added, as an easily digestible food for children and people with dietary restrictions.
Archaeological studies in the Americas show evidence of arrowroot cultivation as early as 7,000 years ago. The name may come from the native Caribbean Arawak people's aru-aru (meal of meals), for which the plant is a staple. It has also been suggested that the name comes from arrowroot's use in treating poison arrow wounds.
In the early days of carbonless forms, arrowroot, because of its fine grain size, was a widely used ingredient. After an economical way of centrifugally separating wheat flour was devised, arrowroot lost its role in papermaking.
Other useful herb information: Cascara Sagrada | Hoodia | Echinacea | Feverfew | Clove | Fennel | Licorice
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