Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Queensland Arrowroot/Achira, Canna edulis

Queensland Arrowroot or Achira: Canna edulis

You know when a plant has reached a peak of popularity when you starting finding discarded specimens at the rubbish tip. This is where I picked up a clump of Queensland Arrowroot, on the ground as a thick tangle of rhizomes, roots and tatty large leaves. In recent years it has been made popular by Permaculture gardeners who want to grow a starchy root vegetable or quick growing screen plant/windbreak or source of leaves to use as mulch. It is even tolerant of a light frost and is certainly ok in a boggy poorly drained site which is where I planted three small pieces of plant. Off it went like a rocket over summer and is now a thick mass of stems about 2.5 metres tall. I am not sure whether I want to harvest it and extract the starch. Arrowroot was always included in the 'Invalid Cooking' section of cookbooks in Australia, in between such delights as 'toast water' and 'gruel'. My copy of The Golden Wattle Cookbook, published as late as 1976, has the recipe for 'Milk Arrowroot' straight after lemonade. I know which I would prefer. If you grew up in Queensland you may even remember having a slice of 'sand cake' for afternoon tea which is made using arrowroot in equal quantities with butter and sugar plus 4 eggs. Cake was better than being offered a plain Arnott's Milk Arrowroot biscuit.

Australia's favourite biscuits

From around the 1870's onwards, Queensland arrowroot was grown commercially in the Pimpama district which is about 45 km south of Brisbane.

Kanaka slave labour was used to harvest rhizomes of arrowroot until the practise of 'blackbirding' was outlawed after Federation.


  1. I planted some Qld Arrowroot outside our veg garden when I read that it provided nutritious greens for chooks. Establishing a clump in their outside run has been a challenge, as they love the new shoots, so I've protected it with a wire enclosure until it becomes more established. In the meantime I cut off stems from the main plant to give to them.
    Interesting that it was grown in Pimpama on a commercial basis .... I didn't know about its history.

  2. Looks very much like something that's popped up in the middle of my vege patch! Didn't plant it though.