Arrowroot is a widely used agricultural product across Kerala. This is chiefly consumed after cooking. It is also used in powdered form. Arrowroot is available in mostly 3 colours-yellow, white, and blue. However it is not commercially cultivated. Only a few farmers grow arrowroot.
In Kerala, mostly the yellow and white coloured arrowroots are cultivated. The leaves of arrowroot plant is similar to that of turmeric. This plant grows well even in shades away from sunlight. This factor, along with the commercial value of the arrowroot powder, and its infinite possibilities as an ingredient in value added goods, open many doors of possibilities for the cultivation of arrowroot plant in Kerala.
The ideal time to start Arrowroot farming is during April-May, the time of summer rains. The climatic conditions of Kerala, with sufficient heat and humidity, is conducive for the farming of arrowroot plant. They can be grown in coconut palm groves, areca palm groves or even in arid land as Mixed farming. They can also be grown under the shade of mango trees or jack fruit trees.
Since there are no seeds for growing this plant, pieces from the arrowroot measuring 4 to 7cms can be cut. They will have 2 to 4 buds and will weigh 15 to 20 grams. Dig holes and fill them up with cow dung, chicken or goat manure or any economical bio manure. Plant them with a gap of 1 feet. In a month of planting, they will start to leaf. Make sure to give manure twice. There is no need for expensive fertilizers. It is best to fertilize these plants during July, and September-October. Within 6 months of planting the arrowroot cuts, the leaves of the plant will start to wilt and turn yellow. This is the perfect time for harvest.
If the yield is less, it is better to wash the produce, grate and mix them in water. After that drain the clear water, remove the waste accumulated at the bottom and dry the rhizomes. If they are cultivated on commercial basis, this procedure is not possible.Proper equipment has to be used. Such instruments are available in the market. However machines that would help in drying and retaining the quality of the produce are yet to be made.
Arrowroot powder is highly nutritious. Porridge made of arrowroot powder is a good medication for diarrhoea in children. Arrowroot mixture was administered to women in their post delivery period. A mixture of jiggery and boiled arrow root powder is a healthy food for all. And it digests fast. Arrowroot contains plenty of starch. Arrowroot mix was a ritualistic drink for women observing fast on Tiruvathira day. These clearly show the nutritious value of arrowroot.
Arrowroot powder is widely used in Ayurvedic and Siddha medicines. Arrowroot is an inevitable raw ingredient in bakery industry. All the major biscuit companies in India make arrowroot biscuits. Arrowroot is in high demand for pharmaceutical industry as well. In some places the leaves of arrowroot plant are fed to cattle and goat. The residue after processing arrowroot can be used in fodder. The clear water derived from arrowroot processing is a good pesticide.
Arrowroot needs no pesticides. Even if proper sunlight is not available, these plants grow well without fertilizers. They also grow under the shade of trees. In short, Kerala is ideal for the farming of arrowroot. Public has to be made aware of the medicinal value and immunity power of arrowroot powder. Also, value added goods have to be produced.