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Have you ever thought about how cool cassava is? Widely grown throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, this popular root vegetable is a staple in the Dominican diet. The Dominican Republic’s tropical climate makes an excellent environment for its growth and because of cassava’s versatility and tolerance, it has been revered since the Taino, Carib, and Arawak population.
Here are 10 things you might not know about cassava:
- Cassava can take up to 18 months to harvest and needs 8+ months of warm weather to grow. It does best in full sunlight.
- Cassava is able to tolerate drought and grow in poor soil, and naturally resists pests and plant disease.
- It can be stored for two years in the ground without rotting!
- Cassava is known by many names including yuca, manioc, mandioca, yucca root, casabe, and tapioca.
- People with dietary constraints will appreciate that cassava is gluten-free, grain-free and nut-free.
- The ways to make cassava are numerous— boil, bake, steam, grill, fry or mash it, as well as add it to stews!
- There are two varieties of cassava – sweet and bitter. Bitter cassava is processed into breads, pastries and cakes.
- Cassava is high in calories and carbohydrates.
- The American Cancer Society warns that people with a latex rubber allergy might be more susceptible to an allergy to cassava.
- Cassava should never be eaten raw — it contain traces of cyanide that can be deadly! The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is helping to breed cassavas with less cyanide.
When properly prepared, cassava poses no problems to your health. It needs to be soaked, dried, and cooked. Because of its long life-cycle and easy agriculture, cassava can act as a source to help prevent hunger in impoverished communities. Delicious in many forms, it’s often eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s no wonder why we find so many ways to enjoy it!