Cassava (Root) Facts

Cassava, also known as manioc, tapioca, yucca or sweet potato tree, is a flowering plant that belongs to the spurge family. It originates from South America. Cultivation of cassava started in Peru 4.000 years ago. Cassava was brought to Africa in the 16th century where it instantly became one of the most important crops. Cassava can be found in the tropical regions around the world today. It grows on fertile, well-drained, moist soil in areas that are frost-free. Cassava is cultivated because of its edible root (tuber). Other than that, cassava has application in the industry of fuels and can be used as animal feed.

Interesting Cassava Facts:

Cassava grows in the form of shrub that can reach 9 feet in height. It produces multiple light-green or reddish branches.
Tuberous root of cassava consists of 4 to 8 individual tubers that grow at the base of stem. They are usually 8 to 15 inches long and 1 to 4 inches wide. Thin brown bark covers whitish interior of root.
Cassava has hand-shaped leaves, composed of 3 to 7 narrow lobes. Leaves are dark green-colored on the upper side and bluish-green on the underside.
Flowers of cassava are arranged in terminal, loose inflorescences composed of either male or female flowers. Flowers are orange-red-colored with tinge of green color.
Fruit of cassava is ellipsoid, wrinkled and covered with six longitudinal wings.
Cassava propagates via stem cuttings. Planting of cassava takes place before the rainy season.
All parts of cassava contain cyanogenic glycosides that convert into toxic hydrogen cyanide when plant tissue is damaged. Both leaves and root need to be thermally processed before consumption.
Root of cassava is third richest source of carbohydrates (after rice and corn) in the world. Besides sugars, root of cassava contains vitamin C and vitamins of the B group and minerals such as calcium and phosphorus.

Cassava (root) can be used for the preparation of breads, chips, flakes, flour or as an ingredient of soups, stews or dishes made of meat.
Powdery or pearl-like extract of dried root is called tapioca. It is used for the production of sweet puddings or baby food due to its neutral taste.
Root of cassava can be used for the production of ethanol that is used as biofuel. China and Brazil are the greatest manufacturers of cassava-based biofuel today.

Cassava is used as animal fodder in the South America, Caribbean and Europe. Leaves are harvested when the plant is still young and dried at the sun for couple of days. Prepared hay is used as food for cows, buffalo, goats, and sheep.
Starch extracted from the root can be used to soften the fabric and facilitate ironing.
Nigeria is the greatest manufacturer, while Thailand is the greatest exporter of cassava in the world.
Cassava is cultivated as an annual plant (lifespan: one year).