Origin and description
Cassava is native to South America and is widely grown in tropical areas all around the world. For instance, it is quite popular in Central America, Africa and the West Indies including Guadeloupe Archipelago. Cassava is able to withstand difficult growing conditions, hence the cultivation in the tropical regions previously mentioned. Here are some other names of Cassava: Manioc in French, Mandioca in Brazil, Yuca in Paraguay or Tapioca. The scientific name is Manihot esculenta (Crantz).
Cassava plant is a perennial woody shrub that grows from about 1 to 3 metres in height. The green leaves are palmate and full of protein. The root has a brown fibrous skin, while the flesh ranges from bright white to soft yellow. Most of the roots are between 30 and 50 centimetres long, 5 to 10 centimetres large and weigh between 2 to 5 kilograms. This starchy root vegetable has a nutty-flavoured.
There are two varieties of Cassava:
- Sweet Cassava: the roots and leaves of this variety are edible.
- Bitter Cassava: this variety is poisonous unless cooked. The root contains toxic hydrocyanic acid which must be removed prior to consumption.
Nutrition facts and Health benefits
Adding Cassava to your diet offers health benefits because of its vitamins, minerals and fiber content. The roots are very rich in starch and contain significant amounts of vitamins especially B and C. The B-complex vitamins include folate, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), riboflavin (vitamin B2) and thiamin. Calcium, iron, manganese, phosphorus and potassium are some of the minerals you can find in the Cassava root. The minerals listed above are indispensable for proper development, growth and function of your body’s tissues, teeth and bones.
Cassava roots are prepared into an amazing variety of foods. It is incredibly versatile; you can boil, bake, steam, grill, fry, mash or add it to stews. When cooked, it turns yellow, slightly translucent, a little sweet, and chewy. The process to make the flour is quite simple. You need to wash, peel, and grate the root then press out the juice and dry it.
Depending on the country, region or ethnic group, the root is prepared in different ways:
- In many countries and Caribbean islands, Cassava is often fried. Cassava flour is also very popular in Guadeloupe Archipelago. For instance, Cassave is a delicious pancake made with the flour that worth a taste when visiting the archipelago.
- In Nigeria and Ghana, Cassava flour is used along with yams to make fufu.