Cassava

History:

Wild populations of domesticated cassava, are centered in west-central Brazil, where it was likely first domesticated more than 10,000 years BP. Forms of the modern domesticated species can also be found growing in the wild in the south of Brazil. By 4,600 BC, manioc pollen appears in the Gulf of Mexico lowlands. The oldest direct evidence of cassava cultivation comes from a 1,400-year-old Maya site, Joya de Cerén, in El Salvador. With its high food potential, it had become a staple food of the native populations of northern South America, southern Mesoamerica, and the Caribbean by the time of the Spanish conquest. Its cultivation was continued by the colonial Portuguese and Spanish.

Cassava was a staple food for pre-Columbian peoples in the Americas and is often portrayed in indigenous art. Cassava was introduced to Africa by Portuguese traders from Brazil in the 16th century. Maize and cassava are now important staple foods, replacing native African crops. Cassava is sometimes described as the ‘bread of the tropics’ but should not be confused with the tropical and equatorial bread tree, the breadfruit or the African breadfruit.

 

Characteristics:

Manihot esculenta (commonly called cassava, Brazilian arrowroot, manioc, tapioca, and yuca) is a woody shrub native to South America of the spurge family, Euphorbiaceae. Cassava is a perennial plant that grows best under tropical, moist, fertile, and well-drained soils. It is extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible starchy tuberous root, a major source of carbohydrates. A rather large root vegetable with a 6- to 12-inch length and 2- to 3-inch diameter, cassava has a tough brown skin with a very firm white flesh. Each tuber weighs one to several pounds depending upon the cultivar type and feature gray-brown, rough, woody textured skin.

 

Food uses:

Both kinds of cassava can appear as a meal, tapioca and farina can be bought ready made as cassava or manioc meal, which is used to make bammie. Sweet cassava is boiled and eaten as a starch vegetable. Alcoholic beverages made from cassava include Cauim and tiquira (Brazil), kasiri (Sub-Saharan Africa), Impala (Mozambique) masato (Peruvian Amazonia chicha), parakari or kari (Guyana), nihamanchi (South America) aka nijimanche (Ecuador and Peru), ö döi (chicha de yuca, Ngäbe-Bugle, Panama), sakurá (Brazil, Surinam). Cassava-based dishes are widely consumed wherever the plant is cultivated; some have regional, national, or ethnic importance. Cassava must be cooked properly to detoxify it before it is eaten. Cassava can be cooked in many ways. The root of the sweet variety has a delicate flavor and can replace potatoes. It is used in cholent in some households. It can be made into a flour that is used in breads, cakes and cookies.

 

Health & nutrition values:

Bitter cassava contains a poisonous acid that can be deadly and must be processed before it can be eaten. Cassava has nearly twice the calories than that of potatoes and perhaps one of the highest value calorie food for any tropical starch rich tubers and roots. Cassava is very low in fats and protein than in cereals and pulses. Nonetheless, it has more protein than that of other tropical food sources like yam, potato, plantains, etc. As in other roots and tubers, cassava too is free from gluten. Gluten-free starch is used in special food preparations for celiac disease patients. Young tender cassava (yuca) leaves are a good source of dietary proteins and vitamin K. Vitamin-K has a potential role in bone mass building by promoting osteotrophic activity in the bones. It also has established role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in the brain. Cassava is a moderate source of some of the valuable B-complex group of vitamins such as folates, thiamin, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), riboflavin, and pantothenic acid. It is one of the chief sources of some important minerals like zinc, magnesium, copper, iron, and manganese for many inhabitants in the tropical belts. In addition, it has adequate amounts of potassium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that help regulate heart rate and blood pressure.

 

Cultural Festival:

Camotes Cassava Festival http://www.gocebu.travel/event/Camotes_Cassava_Festival

 

References/Bibliography:

Cassava – Wikipedia Page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassava

Cassava nutrition facts http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/cassava.html