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The Indian Shot, one of the many ‘Arrowroots’

October 25, 2010

Vernacular names can be confusing. The English name ‘Arrowroot’ can be applied on many unrelated plants with edible roots (such as Arum, Canna, Curcuma, Dioon, Manihot, Maranta, Nelumbo, Tacca and  Zea ). The same confusion occurs within the Thai language, where ‘sa khu’ is applied on many edible roots. Therefore you should never use a dictionary for identifying a plant, but instead you should take a close look at the plant and then consult the botanical literature.

Maranta arundinacea (Marantaceae) is the most commonly used arrowroot for industrial purposes. Its flour is excellent for making smooth sauces. It is sometimes called Bermuda arrowroot. The name is either derived from ‘Aru or Arawak root’, alluding to a Caribbean tribe, or for its use in a poultice to clean wounds of poisoned arrows (or both). It is commonly grown in Thailand and the Seehamongkol family brought it to Dokmai Garden from their hometown in Roi-Et. According to the Seehamongkols, this is the best arrowroot for cooking.

Another common ‘arrowroot’ or ‘Sa khu’ in Thailand is Canna indica (=C. edulis, Cannaceae). ‘Indian Shot’ is a better name than the confusing ‘arrowroot’. This name alludes to the blackish and heavy seeds that look like shotgun pellets. According to our Karen workers these roots are the best. Simply peel and boil like potatoes. Ketsanee and Pattaramol said that as children they would suck the sweet nectar from the flowers, but never use the roots. The Indian shot is characterised by roundish leaves without stalks, red slender flowers and three-lobed fruits with spines. In spite of its name, this species is native to Tropical America.

Eric Danell

Canna indica, now in blossom at Dokmai Garden, Chiang Mai, Thailand

 

The seeds of Canna indica resemble shotgun pellets.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 1, 2015 3:52 PM

    What are the Thai names of these? Does anyone produce an edible arrowroot commercially in Chiang Mai?

    • October 23, 2015 3:31 PM

      I mention ‘Sakhu’ in the article, which is the central Thai name. ‘Man arorut’ is another one. I am not aware of any commercial production in Chiang Mai.

      Cheers, Eric

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