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Achira (Canna edulis)

C. achiras. C. esculenta.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Canna edulis

The starch from the roots is sometimes used as a laundry starch or for sizing[196].

  • Medicinal Use

    None known

  • Edible Use

    Root – raw or cooked[2, 22, 196]. It is the source of ‘canna starch’ which is used as an arrowroot[1, 46, 171, 183]. The arrowroot is obtained by rasping the root to a pulp, then washing and straining to get rid of the fibres[2]. This starch is very digestible[196]. The very young tubers can also be eaten cooked[61, 105, 142, 177], they are sweet but fibrousy[97, K]. The root can be very large, sometimes as long as a person’s forearm[196]. In Peru the roots are baked for up to 12 hours by which time they become a white, translucent, fibrous and somewhat mucilaginous mass with a sweetish taste[183, 196]. The starch is in very large grains, about three times the size of potato starch grains, and can be seen with the naked eye[183, 196]. This starch is easily separated from the fibre of the root[196]. The roots contain about 25% starch[61]. The dry matter contains about 75 – 80% starch, 6 – 14% sugar, 1 – 3% protein, it is high in potassium, low in calcium and phosphorus[196].

    Young shoots – cooked and eaten as a green vegetable[183, 196]. Quite nutritious, containing at least 10% protein[196].

    The immature seeds are cooked in fat tortillas[183].

  • Cautionary Notes

    None known

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – pre-soak for 24 hours in warm water and sow February/March in a warm greenhouse at 20¡c[1, 138]. Plant the seeds 2 – 5cm deep in individual pots[1]. Scarifying the seed can speed germination, especially if the seed has not swollen after being soaked[124, K]. The seed usually germinates in 3 – 9 weeks[138]. Grow the plants on in a greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division of the root clump as the plant comes into growth in the spring. Each portion must have at least one growing point. Pot up the divisions and grow them on in the greenhouse until they are well established and then plant them out in the summer. Root cuttings.
Requires a deep rich well-drained soil in a sunny position[1, 200]. Tolerates heavy soils[196]. The plant has large leaves and dislikes windy conditions since this can tear the leaves to shreds[200]. Requires ample water in the growing season[196]. Tolerates a pH range from 4.5 to 8[196]. This species is probably hardy in the mildest areas of Britain but even then it should be given a good mulch if left in the ground overwinter[1]. The top growth tolerates light frosts and plants can be grown in areas with winter snow[196]. The tubers can be harvested in late autumn after the top growth has been killed back by frost and stored over winter. They should be kept in a frost-free place covered in moist soil or leaves[1]. According to some botanists this species is no more than a synonym for C. indica[200]. Cultivated for its edible root in the Tropics, there are some named varieties[46, 196]. The root can be harvested within 6 months from planting out, though larger yields are obtained after 8 – 10 months[196]. In the British climate this probably means 2 years growth is required for good yields[K]. Yields in the Andes range from 13 – 85 tonnes per hectare, with 22 – 50 tonnes being average[196]. Plants are rarely troubled by pests or diseases[196]. Most cultivated forms do not produce fertile seed[196]. There are also sterile triploid forms, these contain a significantly higher proportion of starch though their cropping potential is not known[196]. Slugs love the young growth in spring and can cause serious damage to plants[233].
S. America. W. Indies.

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*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.