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Arrowhead (Duck Potato)

Broadleaf Arrowhead

Arrowhead — Sagittaria species

Arrowhead was a favorite food of many Native North American tribes. All thirty some varieties or species of arrowhead (Sagittaria), members of the Water Plantain Family (Alismatacea), are edible and can be used in the same ways. Arrowhead is also known as duck potato, arrowleaf, swan potato, wapatoo, wappato, katniss, swamp potato, and tule-potato. Though there is some variation in types of arrowhead plants, all can be identified by the following description. Arrowhead is a perennial aquatic herb with arrow-shaped leaves that grow alternately from a rhizome. Arrowhead flowers bloom in sets of 3 on a central stem from July through September. Each flower has three white 1-2 cm long petals and has many stamens. Walnut sized tubers or corms develop on roots/rhizomes about a meter from the central part of the plant. These tubers contain a milky juice. Arrowhead plants grow in shallow aquatic habitats, such as swamps, marshes, pond edges, and shallow rivers and streams throughout most of the southern half of Canada, the United States, and Mexico. For the Ojibwa and other tribes arrowhead tubers were high valued food sources. Native North Americans consumed them raw, boiled, dried, backed, roasted, mashed, ground into flour, or candied with maple sugar. The Cheyenne are also known to have gathered the plant stocks below the flower, peeled them and ate them raw. w To gather the tubers, use your hands or feet to follow the rhizomes that extend out from the center of the plant’s roots in the mud and water. Remove the tuber growing at the end of each rhizome. Scrub the tubers clean and them boil them in salted water for 15 minutes. Though the skin is edible arrowhead tubers are more palatable when peeled. the best times for collecting tubers is in fall or early spring. Tubers are high in starch and phosphorous. A number of tribes are known to have used the arrowhead plant for medicinal purposes. The Navajo used the arrowhead plant to treat headaches, the Ojibwa ate the corms (tubers) for indigestion, and the Algonquin of Quebec used the tuber to treat tuberculosis!

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