World Foods – Cassava
Cassava (Manihot esculenta), also called manioc, yuca, balinghoy, mogo, mandioca, kamoteng kahoy, and manioc root, a woody shrub of the Euphorbiaceae (spurge family) native to South America, is extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropicaland subtropical regions for its edible starchy, tuberous root, a major source of carbohydrates. It differs from the similarly spelled yucca, an unrelated fruit-bearing shrub in the Asparagaceae family. Cassava, when dried to a starchy, powdery (or pearly) extract is called tapioca; its fermented, flaky version is named garri.
Cassava is the third-largest source of food carbohydrates in the world. Cassava is a major staple food in the developing world, providing a basic diet for over half a billion people. It is one of the most drought-tolerant crops, capable of growing on marginal soils. Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of cassava.
Cassava is classified as sweet or bitter. Like other roots and tubers, cassava contains antinutritional factors and toxins. It must be properly prepared before consumption. Improper preparation of cassava can leave enough residual cyanide to cause acute cyanide intoxication and goiters, and may even cause ataxia or partial paralysis. Nevertheless, farmers often prefer the bitter varieties because they deter pests, animals, and thieves. The more-toxic varieties of cassava are a fall-back resource (a “food security crop”) in times of famine in some places.