Cassava (Manihot esculenta), also called manioc, a woody shrub is extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible starchy tuberous root, a major source of carbohydrates. Cassava is the third-largest source of carbohydrates for meals in the world. It is classified as sweet or bitter, depending on the level of toxic cyanogenic glucosides. (However, bitter taste is not always a reliable measure.) Improper preparation of cassava can leave enough residual cyanide to cause acute cyanide intoxication and goiters, and has been linked to ataxia or partial paralysis.Nevertheless, farmers often prefer the bitter varieties because they deter pests, animals, and thieves. Cassava plays a particularly important role in agriculture in developing countries—especially in sub-Saharan Africa—because it does well on poor soils and with low rainfall, and because it is a perennial that can be harvested as required. No continent depends as much on root and tuber crops in feeding its population as does Africa. In the humid and subhumid areas of tropical Africa, it is either a primary staple food or a secondary costaple. Cassava accounts for a daily caloric intake of 30% in Cameroon, and is grown by nearly every farming family.
However, the price of cassava has risen significantly in the last half decade, and lower-income people have turned to other carbohydrate-rich foods such as rice.
- Water fufu
- Cassava chips
- Garri (white and yellow)
Food: 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.
Biofuel: In many countries, significant research has begun to evaluate the use of cassava as an ethanol biofuel feedstock. In November 2008, China-based Hainan Yedao Group reportedly invested $51.5m (£31.8m) in a new biofuel facility that is expected to produce 33 million gallons a year of bio-ethanol from cassava plants.
Animal feed: Cassava is used worldwide for animal feed as well. Cassava hay is produced at a young growth stage at three to four months, harvested about 30–45 cm above ground, and sun-dried for one to two days until it has final dry matter of at least 85%. The cassava hay contains high protein content (20-27% crude protein) and condensed tannins (1.5-4% CP). It is used as a good roughage source for dairy or beef cattle, buffalo, goats, and sheep by either direct feeding or as a protein source in the concentrate mixtures.
Ethnomedicine: The bitter variety leaves are used to treat hypertension, headache, and pain.
Cubans commonly use cassava to treat irritable bowel syndrome, the paste is eaten in excess during treatment.
As cassava is a gluten-free natural starch, there have been increasing incidences of its appearance in Western cuisine as a wheat alternative for sufferers of celiac disease.
Cassava is low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol, and Sodium, high in Vitamin C and Manganese. Cassava tubers are rich in carbohydrates, mainly starch and are a major source of energy.
With the exception of sugar cane, cassava is the highest source of carbohydrates. Cassava tubers are however deficient in protein, fats and some vitamins.
Cassava leaves contain more protein than the tubers but they lack the essential amino acids, methionine.
Cassava can be cooked in various ways. The soft-boiled root has a delicate flavor and can replace boiled potatoes in many uses such as an accompaniment for meat or fish dishes, Fufu is made from the starchy cassava-root flour,the cassava roots can be soaked, washed and tied in leaves to make miondo or bobolo.
The leaves can be pounded to a fine chaff and cooked as a ‘kwem’ sauce (as is done in Central Region of Cameroon), usually with palm oil.It is necessary to wash the leaf chaff several times to remove the bitterness.
Dietary fibre has been associated with lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases, colon cancer, and helping control diabetes. Cassava significantly decreased total cholesterol levels, decreased low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (considered as “bad” cholesterol), and may help lower triglyceride levels due to its high total dietary fibre content.
Cassava may help support the nervous system and help alleviate stress, anxiety and irritable bowel syndrome.
Cassava flour does not contain gluten, an allergenic protein found in wheat, barley, oats and rye. Also known as tapioca flour, it can be used by gluten intolerant people to replace wheat flour.