Hitchenia caulina (Grah.) Baker syn. Curcuma caulina (Grah.).
Arrowroot lily, Chowar, Indian arrowroot'.
A tuberous herb with a leafy stem, 0.9-1.2 m high, with oblong-lanceolate, fibrous leaves 30-50 cm long and 7.5-10 cm broad. The yellow flowers, which possess a long peduncle, are borne on a central spike.
Origin and distribution
The plant is native to India and is found mainly growing wild on the table land of the Mahabaleshwar plateau and neighbouring regions in forest areas with high annual rainfall.
Hot moist conditions are essential: rainfall of upwards of 500 cm per annum characterises its natural habitat, though it may be grown on the banks of irrigation canals.
Chavar is easily propagated by tuber cuttings, which are planted in raked soil at the beginning of the monsoon, frequently in arecanut plantations and on the banks of rivers and irrigation channels. It is often planted very densely to prevent soil erosion, in some areas up to 50 000 plants per hectare.
For maximum yields of starch a 2 year rotation should be practiced and the tubers harvested when they are 20-24 months old.
Harvesting and handling
The tubers are dug by hand.
Tubers - these are normally the size of an orange with white flesh and covered with fibrous roots.
The tubers yield a white edible starch, which has sometimes been used as a substitute for arrowroot starch.
Secondary and waste products
It has been suggested that the leaves could be used for papermaking.
The tubers have a starch content of 10.9-18.3 per cent (fresh weight basis). On average the tubers yield about 13 per cent of starch, 60 per cent of which is of superior quality and very similar to that of arrowroot.
The harvested tubers are washed and the fibrous roots removed, after which the cleaned tubers are grated and the resultant pulp washed thoroughly, sieved and then re-washed, and the starch allowed to settle out. It is then sun-dried.
Although formerly used locally as a source of 'arrowroot starch', nowadays it is not normally economic to prepare starch commercially from chavar, but the crop can yield a high quality starch, and it could be of value in high rainforest areas to prevent soil erosion.
KHAIRNAR, M. S. 1945. Hitchenia caulina (Chavar) as a source of arrow root. Indian Forester, 71, 126-127.
SASTRI, B. N. (ed.). 1959. Hitchenia. The wealth of India: Raw materials, Vol. 5 (H-K), PP. 101-102. New Delhi, India: Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, 332 pp.