With the recent headlines of skyrocketing prices of maize flour and an entire sack of irish potatoes selling at the price of two plates of chips, it is increasingly becoming imperative for for farmers and consumers to rethink of other options.
Margaret Achieng, a farmer and a trader says this has enabled her to improve her earnings. She farms root tubers like potatoes and arrowroots.
"It is very possible to explore and come up with different products from almost everything, arrowroot is not an exception, you can get several fulfilling products from them," said Achieng.
Arrowroot, popularly known as nduma in Kenya are traditional tubers and is popular because it is a preferred alternative, especially during breakfast.
Arrowroots take five to six months to mature. They are commonly grown in areas that have plenty of water, mostly river beds and swamps.
Trenches are the best way to allow the harnessing of water for the plants to grow without competing for vital resources. Varieties commonly grown in Kenya include Dasheen and Eddoe. The Dasheen arrowroot is known for its large tubers.
The smaller Eddoe variety is better suited to grow away from riverbeds because it can tolerate less water.
However, there is a new farming technique known as upland arrowroots technology that is catching up in areas that have lesser water supply consists of planting the arrowroots on trenches or moisture beds lined with heavy gauge polythene papers.
Aside from being high in protein and several nutrients, arrowroot is very easy to digest, making it ideal for children and older adults who may need gentler food.
Historically, arrowroot has been used for its medicinal properties. Most of its potential health benefits are linked to its starch content and composition.
According to healthline.com, arrowroot may aid weight loss as the powder comprises 32 per cent resistant starch, which your body cannot digest. It forms a viscous gel when mixed with water and behaves like soluble fiber in your gut.
Foods high in fiber and resistant starch slow your rate of digestion, giving you a prolonged feeling of fullness. In turn, this may regulate your appetite and lead to weight loss.
Beneficial gut bacteria may boost your immune health, as they produce multiple vitamins and absorb key minerals that your immune system needs to function properly. What's more, they may even influence how your body responds to many diseases.
Other uses of arrowroot
It may have several cosmetic applications due to its alleged oil-absorbing capacity, though they are not necessarily supported by scientific evidence. All the same, some popular uses include:
Dry shampoo. Massage arrowroot powder into your scalp to refresh your hair without water.
Deodorant ingredient. Mix equal parts arrowroot powder, coconut oil, and baking soda for a homemade deodorant.
Talcum and baby powder substitute. On its own, this powder is said to absorb moisture and increase smoothness.
Homemade makeup. Mix arrowroot powder with cinnamon and nutmeg to make face powder or foundation, beetroot powder for blush, or cocoa powder for bronzer.
Arrowroot can be used as an alternative for thickening sauces, soups, and puddings. It can be used in gluten-free baking to help lighten the texture.
The process of making arrowroot flour is quite similar to that of making cassava flour. Pick well matured arrowroot peel and slice it into pieces. Dry the pieces completely. The pieces can be dried naturally in the sun or use a solar drier.
"It will take longer to dry the pieces naturally, ensure the pieces are small for faster drying. It will take two to three days to dry in the solar drier. All the methods quite depend on the weather, the amount of sun," said Achieng.
From the dried arrowroot pieces, flour can be made by simply putting the chips in a grinding machine. The flour can be sifted and put in suitable packaging.
It is a great substitute for wheat and other flours. You can use it in any recipe that calls for wheat flour, making baking and cooking gluten-free meals easy. It can also be mixed with other grains like millet and sorghum.
A kilogramme costs Sh320.
These are similar to potato crisps, looking at the process of making. They offer a delicious alternative to potato crips due to the high starch content.
To make the chips one needs mature arrowroot bulbs, oil for deep-frying and salt to taste.
Wash and peel arrowroot. Slice the arrowroot thinly using a mandolin or a knife. Lightly sprinkle some salt over the arrowroot slices.
Arrange the slices on a tray and dry well by patting with paper towels. Heat the oil in a wok and deep fry the slices of arrowroot to a light, golden brown colour.
"Do not overcrowd the work when frying. Dish out and drain on paper towels. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container," said Achieng.
200 grams cost Sh200
Cassava, arrowroot and groundnut porridge (Uji power)
This is a mixture of several ingredients which the end result is a sweet nutritious drink. It has gained popularity due to its unique taste and ingredients.
The ingredients include oiled arrowroot, roasted peanuts and pumpkin seeds, boiled cassava, boiled sweet potato, hot milk and honey or sugar (optional).
"With this ingredients ready, all you need to do is blend everything together to come up with this super nutritious drink," said Achieng.
She added: "Cassava is a calorie-rich vegetable, is a good source of vitamins, thiamine, riboflavin and a source of resistant starch. Pumpkins seeds are a good boost for zinc levels in your body. Zinc is one of the minerals that improve sperm health and quantity and boost testosterone levels."
500ml sells at Sh80.
Arowroots, plaintain, potatoes, margarine, salt and milk