Cassava [Manioc; Yuca (Hispanic); Balinghoy, Kamoteng kahoy (Philippine); Mogo (Africa); Mandioca, Tapioca-root (India); Manihot esculenta]

Cassava / Manioc is of great importance in Central and South America and the Caribbean as a source of starch for nutrition, and has become somewhat important in Africa. Roots are rated "sweet" (not bitter) if they have a low cyanide content and "bitter" if they have a high cyanide content. Bitter Cassava requires special processing before ingestion. The largest photo specimen was 11-1/2 inches long, 2-1/4 inches diameter and weighed just over 1 pound.

Cassava root should not be eaten raw, but is peeled, chunked and boiled to make it edible. It is then drained and used as chunks or mashed and squeezed out. and used similarly to potatoes in Latin American recipes. South American natives use cassava to make a mildly alcoholic beverage, cauim, but you probably don't want to know how that is made (the same method was once used to produce sake in Japan).

As Tapioca flour cassava, is used as a common thickener worldwide, and in the form of tapioca pearls to make puddings and deserts. Tapioca is used to make the jelly balls in the boba drinks popular in East and Southeast Asia and with children in North America.

Buying & Storing   Sold in the U.S. mainly under the name "Yuca" (it is not at all related to our southwest Yuccas which are agaves, not spurges), cassava is widely available anywhere there are Caribbean, Central American or South American communities. The roots are generally heavily waxed to keep them from drying out. Waxed roots can be kept a week or so if undamaged, longer under refrigeration, but unwaxed cassava will go off flavor in two or three days even when refrigerated. It is extremely sensitive to water loss and spoilage starts with purple streaks internally.

Cooking   Cassava must be peeled, which will also remove the heavy wax coating. After peeling it must be kept under water acidulated with citric acid or lemon juice until cooked to prevent it from turning brown.

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