Sagù, known by its scientific name of Maranta arundinacea, is a native American plant traditionally used by indigenous peoples that is today still used by small producers in the north central Colombian region of Boyacà. The starches stored in the plants roots are extracted and dried, and this flour is used as the main ingredient in biscuits, beverages and soups. While there is an industrial use for the plant for the fiber contained in the root, the nutritional and culinary use of sagù, and the method of starch extraction, is part of the ancient knowledge of the region. After the roots are harvested they are peeled and ground, then soaked in water and left for a few days to let the starch to separate and sink to the bottom. The soaking water is discarded, and the remaining solids are re-washed before being soaked once more. Finally, the starch is dried in cloth bags exposed to sunlight.
The final product is a powder with a high starch content that is gluten-free and has a unique flavor. The sagù flour can be found for sale in local markets, but the future of this product is threatened. The traditional knowledge of how to obtain the flour from the plant is practiced mainly by the elderly population, and the method has not been passed on to younger generations. This type of flour is less prominent than other cereal flours, and people in urban areas of the region now purchase imported cornstarches or industrial wheat flours from North America. The uncertain future of sagù and its related products for culinary use, therefore, are due to a lack of development of local resources and biodiversity.