Calathea allouia (Marantaceae) 

 

Common Names

English: sweet corn root, guinea arrow root

Spanish: leren, dale dale, agua bendita, cocurito, sewi, lairen, yairen, topi-tambu

Portuguese: ariá, láirem

French: alléluia, touple nambours

 

Origin and Distribution

Native to central and northern Amazon and the Antilles.  Cultivated on a small scale in the American tropics.

 

Botanical Synonyms

Maranta allouia.

 

Description

Densely clumping herbaceous plant to 5 feet (1.5 m) tall.  Elongated leaves are 8-24 inches (20-60 cm) long and 2-8 inches (5-20 cm) wide.  Rhizomes with fibrous roots which produce edible tubers 0.5-2 inches (1-5 cm) long and 0.2-1.2 inches (0.5-3 cm) wide.  Whitish tubers have a thin brown skin and crunchy texture similar to a water chestnut.  White flowers are produced in a terminal inflorescence 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) long.

 

Calathea allouia inflorescence

 

Propagation and Culture

Propagated by division.  Grows best in a fertile, well drained soil with adequate moisture, but tolerates acid soils of low fertility.  Grows well in shade, but will also grow in full sun if adequate moisture is available.  Tubers are harvested 8-12 months after planting.

 

Uses

The tubers are eaten cooked and in salads.  The taste is similar to sweet corn, and the crunchy texture is conserved even after cooking.  The young inflorescences are also consumed as a vegetable.  Flour made from the dried tubers contains 13-15% starch and 6.6% protein.  

 

Nutritional composition per 100 g sweet corn root tubers      

Carbohydrate 9 g
Fat  0.8 g
Protein  0.5 g
Fiber 0.8 g
Calcium 15 mg
Phosphorous  34 mg
Iron  3.1 mg
Thiamine 0.04 mg
Riboflavin 0.03 mg
Niacin  0.04 mg
Vitamin C   4 mg

 

The leaves are used to wrap tamales and other foods.  The leaves are also used medicinally as a diuretic and in the treatment of cystitis.

 

 

 

 

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