Araro – arrowroot is a perennial herb that grows in warm climates and swampy areas. It is cultivated for ornamental leaves but specially for the starchy tubers or rhizomes that could be made into biscuits for babies just like tapioca starch. The tubers are white with large thin scales. The leaves are dark green and glossy and the flowers are white. The roots of the plants can be harvested after a year of growing. The soil must be very rich in organic matter and constantly moist to ensure a good harvest.
The Arawak people from the Caribbean Islands call it aru-aru which means meal of meals because of the starchy tuber and considered a staple food. It has a medicinal value in which it could be used to draw poisons from wounds inflicted by poison arrows hence the name “arrowroot.”
I remember when I was young, my mom will boil the tubers or araro and we will have it for snack or breakfast. The flavor resembles that of a nutty water chestnuts. It is a bit fibrous when you bite them. But it is good for digestion that is why they are good for making biscuits for babies. It is also a natural source of calcium. Araro is also used for treating diarrhea and UTI.
I have not seen araro or arrowroot for a long time. It seemed got lost in the natural selection of things in our local agriculture. Until recently, I was surprised to see them in Chinatown, here in Oahu, Hawaii. I was eager to get some not only to eat them but also to try and grow them in the garden. But I did not have to because a friend of mine gave me some rooted plants ready for planting. I put them in the garden right away. I will have to wait to see how the tubers will develop after a year. The good thing about it is araro is a very ornamental plant so you would want them to be in your garden anyways just like having ginger plants and exudes a very tropical look.
The genus name Maranta was given in memory of Bartommeo Maranto a physician in Naples, Italy, 1559.