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Calathea allouia

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Calathea allouia, known as lerén or lairén in Spanish, and also known in English as Guinea arrowroot, and sweet corn root, is a plant in the arrowroot family, native to northern South America and the Caribbean, The name "allouia" is derived from the Carib name for the plant<ref>"Topi Tambo, Leren, Guinea Arrowroot", Eat the Weeds, [1], accessed 17 Feb 2016</ref> Leren is a minor food crop in the American tropics, but was one of the earliest plants domesticated by pre-historic Indians in South America.

Leren is called Tipee-Tambo in Trinidad and Tobago.


Leren is considered native to Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, the Lesser Antilles, Trinidad & Tobago, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil. It is reportedly naturalized in Jamaica<ref>Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Calathea allouia</ref><ref>Lindley, John. 1829. Botanical Register 14: sub pl. 1210, Calathea allouia</ref><ref>Aublet, Jean Baptiste Christophe Fusée. 1775. Histoire des Plantes de la Guiane Françoise 1: 3–4, Maranta allouia </ref><ref>Forzza, R. C. 2010. Lista de espécies Flora do Brasil Template:Cite web. Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro</ref><ref>Hokche, O., P. E. Berry & O. Huber. (eds.) 2008. Nuevo Catálogo de la Flora Vascular de Venezuela 1–860. Fundación Instituto Botánico de Venezuela, Caracas</ref><ref>Dodson, C.H., A.H. Gentry & F.M. Valverde Badillo. 1985. La Flora de Jauneche: Los Ríos, Ecuador 1–512. Banco Central del Ecuador, Quito.</ref>

Leren has been introduced as a minor root crop in tropical regions around the world.<ref>Martin, F.W. & Cabanillas, E. (1976) Leren (Calathea allouia), a little known tuberous root crop of the Caribbean. Economic Botany 30(3):249-256. Downloaded from JSTOR.</ref>


Leren or Calathea allouia<ref>FAO, "Guinea Arrowroot" (1994), Neglected Crops: 1492 from a Different Perspective, Plant Production and Protection Series, No. 26, p. 240</ref>

Leren is a perennial plant, approximately Template:Convert in height. It produces egg-shaped tuberous roots Template:Convert to Template:Convert long at the end of fibrous roots. The leaves are large, up to Template:Convert long and Template:Convert wide. Indigenous people of the Americas have used the durable leaves to make traditional medicines and as baby clothing. Leren usually reproduces itself through rhizomes which produce shoots and new plants.<ref>FAO, p. 240</ref>


Leren is adapted to a tropical climate with alternating rainy and dry seasons. It sprouts with the first rains and grows rapidly, forming tubers which are harvested as the foliage begins to die back eight or nine months after the initial sprouting. The rhizomes, harvested at the same time, are tolerant of both drying and flooding, and divided and replanted again at the onset of the rainy season. Frequent irrigation is necessary during dry periods. Leren is often planted in shade or partial shade but can grow in full sun with adequate moisture and nutrients.<ref>Martin and Cabanillas, pp. 252-252</ref>

Leren is traditionally cultivated on a small scale. Its cultivation is declining as it has been replaced by other crops.<ref>FAO, p. 239</ref>


Leren is usually cooked by boiling the tubers for 15 to 60 minutes, As food, leren is often compared to water chestnut (Eleocharis dulcis) because leren, like the water chestnut, retains its crispness despite being cooked. Boiled leren has a taste similar to sweet corn, hence one of its common English names. The cooked tuber is covered with a thin, edible skin which is most easily peeled after cooking. Leren is mostly eaten as an hors d'oeuvre or appetizer. Leren tubers can be stored at room temperatures for up to three months, but do not tolerate refrigeration well.<ref>Martin and Cabanillas, pp. 254-256</ref>

The nutritional value of leren has not been thoroughly studied, but the tubers have a starch content of 13-15 percent and a protein content of 6.6 percent.<ref>Martin and Cabanillas, p. 254</ref>

Prehistoric domestication

Archaeologists have discovered that leren was one of the first plants domesticated in prehistoric South America. Leren, along with arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea), squash (Cucurbita moschata), and bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria) were being cultivated in northern South American and Panama between 8200 BCE and 5600 BCE.<ref>Piperno, Dolores R. (Oct 2011), "The Origins of Plant Cultivation and Domestication in the New World Tropics", Current Anthropology, Vol 52, No. 54, p. S 459. Downloaded from JSTOR.</ref> It appears that the cultivation of leren spread to places where it was not likely native. For example, the people of the Las Vegas culture on the arid and semi-arid Santa Elena Peninsula of Ecuador grew leren by about 7000 BCE. Leren was being grown there to be eaten raw, dried, or ground into flour.<ref>Moore, Jerry D. (2014), A Prehistory of South America, Boulder: University Press of Colorado, pp. 97-99. Downloaded from Project Muse.</ref>