Growing arrowroot is very, very easy.
That said, I only mention the crop in passing in my book Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening because of the processing it takes to actually eat it without getting a mouthful of fibers. All I write is:
“Arrowroot is very easy to grow and beautiful to look at, but the yields are small. Roots require extra processing. It’s good as a non-recognizable background sort of survival crop if you’re worried about the end of the world and someone stealing your sweet potatoes… but not really much of a staple.” -Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening, Chap. 6
Though the young roots don’t only contain some fibrous strings, the older roots are basically inedible… except for their starch. So how do you harvest the starch out of arrowroot? Here’s a good post.
I’ll probably make arrowroot flour at some point myself; however, it’s not high on my priority list, particularly since I can just grow huge piles of yams instead with much less work.
Despite that fact, I really love growing arrowroot as an attractive member of the herbaceous layer in my food forest.
A couple of days ago I recorded a video on growing arrowroot and dug up one of my plants to harvest the roots. Check it out:
Even if you weren’t growing arrowroot for the starch, it would be worth growing because it’s such an attractive and care-free plant.
The video doesn’t do it justice since it’s entering the dormant season and dying back. They’re a lot prettier in the spring. Here’s all you need to do to start growing arrowroot in your own garden.
Arrowroot, or as its friends call it, Maranta arundinacea, is a tropical plant with some quite beautiful variations as well as some attractive cousins you’ve likely seen for sale as houseplants.
Though some sources report that growing arrowroot requires shade, I’ve had it do well in almost full sun along the path in the center of my food forest.
I’ve grown it in full shade as well, though that plant was less productive. Half-sun seems to be the sweet spot. If you get good rainfall and have decent soil, the yields increase. My arrowroot plants are fed with nothing but rotting wood chip mulch from the power company tree trimmers and that’s been enough for them to produce decent yields of roots. I pulled one from a rich and moist garden bed and got about 4 times the roots from it as from the one in the video above. Location, location, location!
That said, they really are a low-care perennial.
When to Harvest Arrowroot
When you’re growing arrowroot and it starts to die in the fall, don’t fear. It’s just going into dormancy. They’ll freeze to the ground in winter and come back again in the spring, much like ginger.
That’s the time I pull the roots. Give them a year of growth and they’ll usually make at least a half-dozen or more harvestable roots. Give them two years and you’ll get a lot more than that.
Where To Buy Arrowroot Plants
I got my arrowroot starts from Grower Jim and I recommend him as a source. That link will take you to his write-up on growing arrowroot and there’s a link at the bottom of his article where you can order roots.
Is it Worth Growing Arrowroot?
As a survival crop, arrowroot has the advantage of being basically unknown, making it invisible to thieves. On the down side, it’s not the best to eat fresh due to its many fibers.
That said, I’ve eaten the raw roots by chewing them up and spitting out the fibers. The starch has a cool, smooth flavor that’s rather refreshing. It’s also quite digestible. You may not enjoy eating arrowroot like you’d enjoy eating Idaho potatoes, but they could keep you fed if everything fell apart.
SPUDOMETER RATING: 3.5 Spuds!
Latin Name: Maranta arundinacea
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Nitrogen Fixer: No
Medicinal: Some reports on helping digestion
Cold-hardy: Dieback perennial
Exposure: 3/4 sun to shade
Part Used: Roots
Storability: Great in ground, good in the fridge
Ease of growing: Very easy