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Plant Description: It has ovoid or cylindrical. tuberous roots which are 2 to 8 cm long and 2 to 4 cm in diameter. The leaves have an enveloping base forming short pseudostems; the petioles are long and striated, the leaf blades elliptical—similar to those of rattan palm—and measure 20 to 60 x 5 to 20 cm. The flowers are white. approximately 2 to 5 cm long, with a staminode and trilocular ovary. Tuberization begins at the end of the fibrous roots.
Scientific Name: Calathea allouia
Common Names: English: Guinea arrowroot, sweet corn root (Caribbean) topeetampo, topi-tamboo, topinambour; Spanish: dale dale, agua bendita, cocurito (Venezuela), lerenes (Puerto Rico), topitambo or tambu (West Indies), topinambur (Antilles); Portuguese: ariá, láirem (Brazil)
Origin: Tropical Americas
Distribution/History: Distributed throughout the world, Guinea arrowroot has been well accepted, but has not reached the point of being an important crop anywhere. In Brazilian Amazonia, its increasing abandonment seems to have been caused by two main factors: its very long vegetative cycle (ten to 12 months) and its replacement in the diet of small rural producers by other types of food (sweet potato, care, yam or other industrialized products such as wheat biscuits and bread). Even in its region of origin where its cultivation dates back 1000 years, Guinea arrowroot is at present used only in subsistence farming by traditional growers and indigenous populations.
Importance: The tuberous roots of Guinea arrowroot are eaten cooked and their texture remains crisp even after long cooking, a characteristic which makes it very palatable. It is cooked in water for 15 to 20 minutes and its flavour is similar to that of cooked green maize. As well as being eaten on its own, Guinea arrowroot can be an ingredient of salads, mayonnaise and fish dishes. In South America, the leaf dye is used in traditional medicine to treat cystitis and as a diuretic.