Growing Canna Edulis (Queensland Arrowroot) in our backyard began my quest to learn how to make Arrowroot Powder.
I like and try to replace store-bought items with homemade ones, and having a plant that not only filled an unused corner of our garden but could also supply us with an edible potato-like replacement allowed me to make Arrowroot Powder made it a definite keeper.
As I mentioned earlier, the rhizomes can be treated like a potato. However, this post is about the starch content extracted from the rhizomes and the making of what most know as Arrowroot Powder.
Come along as I show you how we process this versatile plant into Arrowroot Powder for my pantry.
How to Harvest Arrowroot plant (Canna Edulis)
The Queensland Arrowroot is one of those plants that will grow in various spots in a garden. They can thrive almost anywhere. When grown in a moist and sunny position, it can give you a great source of mulch when using the chop-and-drop gardening method.
Canna edulis is just one source of replacing starch for use in the kitchen. It will also provide you with an abundant supply of rhizomes. This article on 21 edible gingers has a few plants listed with reasonable amounts of starch using the same method that this article details to extract.
Our Arrowroot plant, however, grows in a hot, dry spot and only receives our wet season rain, yet this plant still manages to reproduce year after year.
It is one of our more hardy plants that grow well with the S.T.U.N method (Shear Total Utter Neglect). (thank you, Mark Sheppard)
The Queensland Arrowroot (Canna Edulis) Plant plant needs to be lifted and split every year, so we take advantage of the plants’ bounty and process the tubers for our pantry when this needs to be done.
Harvesting for us is simple: loosening the soil underneath the plant with a garden fork and lift. Shake off the excess soil and start to separate tubers into separate piles.
We replant the rhizomes that are too small, old, and fibrous or already have a good-sized shoot on them. We will process all others in the kitchen.
How do you stop the Arrowroot Rhizomes from oxidizing?
Remove most of the excess soil and give the rhizomes a rinse under water, allowing them to dry off. I have sometimes left them for a few days before processing them.
Begin by removing all of the fibrous skin with a sharp knife.
The rhizomes can go brown when skinned (similar to apples), so it helps to take an extra step when peeling. When you start to peel the tubers, the best way to stop the arrowroot rhizomes from oxidizing is to place them into a bowl/bucket of acidified water. I cut a lime or lemon in half and leave it in the water.
The peelings are given to the chickens or can be composted.
What size cubes do I need to make Arrowroot Pulp?
The size of your food processor will determine this next stage. I generally chop the rhizomes into 1/2-inch-sized cubes or smaller. (Grating would work; however, I find it very messy, and the process is slightly different from what I do here.)
These cubes then get placed in a bowl of fresh Lemon/Lime water until all rhizomes have been chopped.
Why Blitz the Arrowroot Rhizomes to make a pulp?
The fresh bowl of lemon/lime water (we use rainwater) from above is the water you will be using for most of the following processing.
We are doing this blitzing of the cubes to turn them into a small and grainy pulp that makes the starch readily available from the surface area of the (now)minced grainy rhizomes, and this process allows the starch to be released into the water.
Keep going with this process of blitz (in a food processor), strain(through a strainer), and blitz again, using the same water to process in the food processor.
Do this repeatedly until all cubes are ground up as small as possible without being mush.
The mix may look brown and horrible, but you need this starchy, grainy, watery mix.
How to separate Arrowroot Pulp from the Starchy Water.
We are now at the stage of separating the blitzed mix to give us two separate bowls of products—one of brown, starchy water and another of grainy arrowroot rhizome bits.
Use a couple of bowls and a couple of fine strainers and pour the water through these strainers, pressing and squeezing the grainy pulp to release all the water.
The resulting brown liquid is what we have been working towards.
Once you feel you have pressed as much water as possible, put the brown liquid aside for the next step and remove the pulp for later use.
Note: If you have over-processed the rhizomes and have a mushy mess, and if you find your fine strainer can’t separate the pulp and water very well, then you can strain, squeeze and drain the pulp through a cheesecloth, collecting the water.
How easy is it to Separate the Arrowroot Starch from the water?
Now is when all of our messy work now begins to pay off.
The easiest way to remove the Arrowroot starch from the water is to allow the starch to settle into the bottom of the bowl.
Let this brown (pulp-free) water sit for a few hours. After a couple of hours, discard the water by slowly pouring it out of the bowl. I cover it with a lid and carry on with my day.
As you do this, you will notice that the starch will be a reasonably solid substance at the bottom of the bowl. You will not “accidentally” pour it out.
Top up with fresh water, and give it another good swirl by either using a spoon or getting your clean hands in there to break up the starch and give it a good mix.
This action separates any tiny brown fibers and debris that may still be in the watery starchy mix. Pick out the floating bits and allow the mix to rest again. They are the remaining bits of fibrous rhizomes from the straining process.
Repeat this process as many times as needed to separate the starch from the water.
Every time you “swish, clean, and rest,” the water will become clearer and cleaner. Eventually, each wash cycle will be completed more quickly.
How to dehydrate Arrowroot Starch and make Powder.
Once you have discarded the last of the water, you will have a bowl with a thick layer of white starch on the bottom of your bowl. There are now only two more things to do.
Dehydrate the freshly made arrowroot starch and turn then it into a fine powder. This white substance can be scooped out with a spoon and placed on a dehydrating tray.
Scrape the sides of the bowl; there has been a lot of work done up to this point, don’t waste anything.
When it is all on the tray, break up the starch to allow better airflow and place it in your dehydrator to dry overnight.
How to remove the clumps of your Homemade Arrowroot Powder.
The following day, remove the white arrowroot powdery clumps and proceed to break them up. They will crumble in your hands. Once you’ve taken the arrowroot from the trays, proceed to sift this white powder to as fine as you want and need it to be. If you are after an extra fine powder, use a herb/coffee blender.
Using a funnel, place it into a glass jar and seal it.
It is now ready for your pantry shelf.
If you require some more information on arrowroot powder, click on How to use Arrowroot Powder in the kitchen and learn what do you use Arrowroot Flour for. These may give you some more ideas and uses for this great product.
The pulp can be fed to chickens or even composted. However, we also use the pulp from the Blitzing process by slow-cooking it with spices and using it in other meals.
If you want to see this process in video, click here to watch.
Even though it may seem like a huge undertaking to do this process, it is worth the effort if you want to replace products that you currently buy from the store.
Many more parts of this plant are usable in the Kitchen as a food source. If you would like to read more about what parts of the Canna Edulis Plant are edible, please check it out.
Typing “canna edulis” in the search bar at the top of the page will also show other posts about this plant if you are interested.
This article was written by Tui Blanch. She is Co-owner of TheTropicalHomestead.com and has well over 20yrs experience in preserving and storing food.