Herb: Achira

Latin name: Canna edulis

Synonyms: Canna achiras, Canna esculenta

Family: Cannaceae (Canna Family)

Edible parts of Achira:

Root - raw or cooked. It is the source of "canna starch" which is used as an arrowroot. The arrowroot is obtained by rasping the root to a pulp, then washing and straining to get rid of the fibres. This starch is very digestible. The very young tubers can also be eaten cooked, they are sweet but fibrousy. The root can be very large, sometimes as long as a person's forearm. 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. The starch is in very large grains, about three times the size of potato starch grains, and can be seen with the naked eye. This starch is easily separated from the fibre of the root. The roots contain about 25% starch. The dry matter contains about 75 - 80% starch, 6 - 14% sugar, 1 - 3% protein, it is high in potassium, low in calcium and phosphorus. Young shoots - cooked and eaten as a green vegetable. Quite nutritious, containing at least 10% protein. The immature seeds are cooked in fat tortillas.

Description of the plant:


3 m
(9 3/4 foot)

August to

Habitat of the herb:

By the coast and in temperate valleys of the Andes. Usually found at the edges of moist thickets or in ditches.

Other uses of Achira:

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

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - pre-soak for 24 hours in warm water and sow February/March in a warm greenhouse at 20C. Plant the seeds 2 - 5cm deep in individual pots. Scarifying the seed can speed germination, especially if the seed has not swollen after being soaked. The seed usually germinates in 3 - 9 weeks. 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.

Cultivation of Achira:

By the coast and in temperate valleys of the Andes. Usually found at the edges of moist thickets or in ditches.

Medicinal use of the herb:

None known

Known hazards of Canna edulis:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.