Historians believe that mankind has been cultivating and using arrowroot for well over 7000 years. During my childhood, nearly every household in Kerala had a patch of arrowroot and of turmeric. All members of large joint families participated in planting, tending, harvesting and processing of organic produce of the finest quality. Alas, with the change in lifestyle and the nuclearisation of families, all that has been forgotten, except in a few pockets still tenaciously holding on to tradition.
We plant a little arrowroot every year. At this time of the year, the pearly white rhizomes are dug up, washed and scraped to remove the scaly outer skin. Then, they are cut into chunks and ground to paste. The watery paste is left to settle. Every hour or so, the clear water at the top of the vessel is drained off and fresh water is added. The paste is stirred and left to settle again. This process is repeated several times during the day to remove the sap. On the morning of the second day, the thick starch sediment at the bottom is spread out on large platters to dry for 2 to 3 days in the hot sun. It turns to dry powder which has a fine crumbling, crystalline texture to the touch. I store this precious powder in small airtight containers which keeps well for years. A teaspoonful (5 gm) of this pure arrowroot powder suffices to make a delicious glass of hot arrowroot. Excellent for digestion and for cooling the body, a drink of arrowroot helps relieve a queasy stomach and goes a long way in aiding to fight diarrhea. For an upset stomach, it is best to take an arrowroot drink with a pinch of salt, but without milk. As a health drink with the power to uplift your spirits, you can enjoy it with milk and sugar.
While buying arrowroot powder from the market, please beware of adulterated powders. The most common of adulterants are bleached cornflour, potato starch and tapioca powder. You can recognize genuine powder by its crispy crystalline feel. Do make and enjoy!