AskDefine | Define arrowroot

Dictionary Definition



1 a nutritive starch obtained from the root of the arrowroot plant
2 white-flowered West Indian plant whose root yields arrowroot starch [syn: American arrowroot, obedience plant, Maranta arundinaceae]
3 canna grown especially for its edible rootstock from which arrowroot starch is obtained [syn: achira, indian shot, Canna indica, Canna edulis]

User Contributed Dictionary



Arawak aru-aru (meal of meals)


  1. A large perennial herb (Maranta arundinacea - Family Marantaceae) native to the Caribbean area. It has large green leaves about 15 centimeters long with white stripes.
  2. A starchy substance obtained from the roots of the arrowroot plant used as a thickener.


Extensive Definition

Arrowroot, or obedience plant (Maranta arundinacea), is a large perennial herb of genus Maranta found in rainforest habitats. Arrowroot is also the name for the easy-to-digest starch from the rhizomes (rootstock) of West Indian arrowroot. This plant should be confused neither with Sagittaria species sometimes called "arrowhead" and used as a root vegetable nor arrowweed, which also has edible roots.
The plant is naturalized in Florida, but it is chiefly cultivated in the West Indies (Jamaica and St. Vincent), Australia, Southeast Asia, and South and East Africa. Because of this, Napoleon supposedly said the real reason for the British love of arrowroot was to support their colonies.

Cultivation and preparation

Arrowroot tubers 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 "arrowroot" of commerce and it is at once packed for market in air-tight cans, packages or cases.
Arrowroot 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, which can be used to make a Jello-like food for vegetarians, very smooth in consistency—unlike adulterated articles mixed with potato flour and other starches of lower value which contain larger particles. Most starch sold today as arrowroot is actually cassava flour, which does not have the same gelling and nutritional properties. Kudzu flour has also been described as arrowroot.

Arrowroot in cooking

Arrowroot is used as an article of diet in the form of biscuits, puddings, jellies, cakes, hot sauces 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. The lack of gluten in arrowroot flour makes it ideal as a replacement for wheat flour in baking. 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 oriental sweet and sour sauce.
Arrowroot thickens at a lower temperature than does flour or cornstarch. It is recommended to mix arrowroot with a cool liquid before adding to a hot fluid. The mixture should be heated only until mixture thickens and removed immediately to prevent mixture from thinning. Overheating tends to break down arrowroot's thickening property. Substitute two teaspoons of arrowroot for one tablespoon of cornstarch, or one teaspoon of arrowroot for one tablespoon of wheat flour.


Archaeological studies in the Americas show evidence of arrowroot cultivation as early as 7,000 years ago. The name may come from aru-aru (meal of meals) in the language of the Caribbean Arawak people, for whom the plant is a staple. It has also been suggested that the name comes from arrowroot's use in treating poison arrow wounds, as it draws out the poison when applied to the site of the injury.
In the early days of carbonless copy papers, 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 (see arrowroot paper).
arrowroot in Min Nan: Hún-chî
arrowroot in German: Pfeilwurz
arrowroot in Spanish: Maranta arundinacea
arrowroot in French: Arrow-root
arrowroot in Japanese: クズウコン
arrowroot in Malayalam: കൂവളം
arrowroot in Dutch: Arrowroot
arrowroot in Portuguese: Araruta
arrowroot in Finnish: Arrowjuuri
arrowroot in Turkish: Ararot
arrowroot in Vietnamese: Mì tinh
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