Arrowroot tradition lives on in Colombier

POSTED: 03/2/15 11:52 PM

COLOMBIER – The Nature Valley Association of Colombier held its annual Arrowroot Jollification on Saturday. From early in the morning, villagers were busy uprooting a field in the center of the village to collect the precious arrowroots.

As the day got underway, the Jolly Boys provided musical entertainment, while visitors and villagers alike engaged in mashing arrowroots or watching how others cleaned the root, pressed the mashed arrowroot into balls to be used as animal feed (for pigs and fowl) and collecting the remainder through a piece of cheese cloth to be dried and used as flour.

The Nature Valley Association produced a booklet that contains explanations about the arrowroot and how it ties in with local culture. Arrowroot, also known as dictame, is a root of a tropical plant called Maranta Arundinacea. This plant healed injuries caused by poisoned arrows. This is a possible explanation for the name arrowroot.

Arrowroot is used in cooking as well as for health benefits. The flour derived from the root is an excellent binder and replaces traditional flour and sometimes eggs in many recipes.

Arrowroot also helps to cure an upset stomach and is, according to the association’s booklet, perfect for babies that suffer from diarrhea. It also combats vomiting.

Arrowroot is gluten, it is odorless and has no flavor. It is rich in starch (23 percent) and beats in this sense the quality of corn and potatoes. Other characteristics are: 80 percent carbohydrates, low in protein and rich in calcium. “An excellent energy product,” the association states in the booklet.

Prepared arrowroot can be frozen and used in homemade ice cream to prevent the formation of ice crystals. The arrowroot flour dissolves easily in vegetable milk.

The Nature Valley Association was established more than ten years ago, in June 2004. Its objective is to preserve the arrowroot-tradition and to pass it on to the next generation.

In days gone by the arrowroot was the only source of income for some villagers. The ‘Gardens of Arraw’ were sacred places that were well maintained.

The owners had special casks and bags to store their flour and some of them had a special storage room for the product. People came from all corners of the island to Colombier to buy the arrowroot flour. Farmers also delivered to individual clients in Marigot and Philipsburg.

Today, only the memories and the stories of those days remain the Nature Valley Association states nostalgic in the booklet. “Therefore we share this with the people, especially the younger generation. We hope they will continue the tradition.”

The booklet does not stop there: it contains also a couple of recipes. One recipe advises how to dissolve arrowroot flour in cold water for consumption by babies. There is also a recipe for an arrowroot cake and one for arrowroot pancakes.

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