What is Cassava? How to Use Cassava

Bitter Cassava, Cassareep, Cassaripe FR: Cassave, Manioc GER: Maniok, Brotwurzel IT: Manioca SP: Canabe

BOT: Manihot esculenta (Manihot utilissima)

FAM: Euphorbiaceae ILL: Plate 2, Nos. 4, 4a

The cassava or tapioca plant (manioc, mandioc, yuca, yucca or jucca in Peru) is a native of South America and a vital food plant in most tropical and sub-tropical countries, though particularly so in South America and West Africa. The plants are perennials, growing a good nine feet high, and have the appearance of small trees. The roots end in very large tubers, and it is those tubers that are used as food. We know the prepared form as tapioca. Between a hundred and two hundred varieties of cassava are known, but there are two main types – sweet and bitter. The root of all cassavas is liable to contain prussic acid (cyanide), the poisonous principal in bitter almonds. Fortunately, prussic acid is volatile and is driven off in cooking.

What is Cassava? How to Use Cassava Photo Gallery

The tuberous roots of the sweeter and less poisonous cassavas (sweet cassavas) can be eaten boiled, but these and the more poisonous bitter cassavas are often first grated and have their juice squeezed out. The solid part is then baked into cakes called cassava bread, but the poisonous milky juice can be reduced by boiling to an edible treacly substance, flavoured with spices and used in some West Indian dishes, particularly the West Indian pepper pot.

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