ARROW-ROOT: a starch obtained from the root of a West Indian plant, largely cultivated in all tropical countries. Its name is said to have been obtained from the fact that the Indians used the fresh roots to cure the wounds made by poisoned arrows. More probably it is derived from Ara, the old Indian name of the plant.
The roots are dug when they are about a year old. When good, they contain about 23 per cent. of starch. In Bermuda and Jamaica they are first washed, then cleaned of the paper-like scale, washed again, drained and finally reduced to a pulp by beating them in mortars or subjecting them to the action of the wheel-rasp. The milky liquid thus obtained is passed through a coarse cloth or hair sieve and the starch allowed to settle at the bottom as an insoluble powder. This powder, dried in the sun or in drying houses, is the "arrow-root" of commerce and it is at once packed for market in air-tight cans, pack ages or cases.
Arrow-root has in the past been quite extensively adulterated with potato starch and other similar substances, so care is needed in selection and buying. The genuine article is a light, white powder (the mass feeling firm to the finger and crackling like newly fallen snow when rubbed or pressed), odorless when dry, but emitting a faint, peculiar odor when mixed with boiling water, and swelling on cooking into perfect jelly, very smooth in consistence—in contradistinction to adulterated articles mixed with potato flour and other starches of lower value which contain larger particles.
Arrow-root is used as an article of diet in the form of biscuits, puddings, jellies, cakes, etc.; and also with beef tea, milk or veal broth, or plain boiled with a little flavoring added, as an easily digestible food for invalids and children.