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This plant is also known as 'yuca'. For the Cuban music, see Yuka.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Malpighiales
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Subfamily: Crotonoideae
Tribe: Manihoteae
Genus: Manihot
Species: M. esculenta
Binomial name
Manihot esculenta

The cassava, casava, or manioc (Manihot esculenta) is a woody shrub of the Euphorbiaceae (spurge family) that is extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible starchy tuberous root, a major source of carbohydrate.

Cassava is called mandioca, aipim, or macaxeira in Portuguese language|Portuguese, mandio in Guaraní language|Guaraní, maniok in Afrikaans language|Afrikaans, yuca or mandioca in Spanish, mogho in Gujarati language|Gujarati, 'tapioka' in Fijian language|Fijian, kappa or maracheeni in Malayalam language|Malayalam, singkong or ubi kayu in Indonesian language|Indonesian, tugi in Ilocano, balinghoy in Tagalog, maniok in German language|Germa, Danish language|Danish]] and Czech language|Czech, manyok in [[creole language|Haitian Creole, lumu in Kichwa|Kichwa, manioc in French language|French, and mannyokka. in Sinhalese_language|Sinhala.



Unprocessed cassava root

The root is long and tapered, with a firm homogeneous flesh encased in a detachable rind, about 1 1 E-3 m|mm thick, rough and brown on the outside. Commercial Variety (biology)|varieties can be 5 to 10 centimetre|cm in diameter at the top, and 50 to 80 cm long. A woody cordon runs along the root's Coordinate axis|axis. The flesh can be chalk-white or yellowish; it breaks like a carrot, and darkens quickly upon exposure to the air. For this reason, the skinned root must be kept under water until it is ready to be cooking|cooked. The root's flavor spoils in a day or so, even if kept unskinned and under refrigeration, which is a problem for supermarkets. A solution is usually to freeze it or seal it in wax.

The cassava plant gives the highest yield of food energy per cultivated area per day among crop plants, except possibly for sugarcane. Cassava roots are very rich in starch, and contain significant amounts of calcium (50 mg/100g), phosphorus (40 mg/100g) and vitamin C (25 mg/100g). However, they are poor in protein and other nutrients. In contrast, cassava leaves are a good source of protein if supplemented with the amino acid methionine.

History and economic impact

Cassava in cultivation in Democratic Republic of Congo

The species Manihot esculenta originated in South America. It was domesticated before recorded history in Brazil and Paraguay, became the staple food of the native populations of northern South America and the West Indies and was later assimilated by the Spanish conquerors. Forms of the modern domesticated species can be found growing spontaneously in the south of Brazil. While there are several wild Manihot species, all varieties of M. esculenta are cultigens.

World production of cassava root was estimated to be 184 million tonnes in 2002, the majority of production is in Africa where 99.1 million tonnes were grown, 51.5 million tonnes were grown in Asia and 33.2 million tonnes in Latin America and the Caribbean.


Cassava is harvested by hand by raising the lower part of stem and pulling the roots out of the ground, then removing them from the base of the plant . The upper parts of the stems with the leaves are plucked off before harvest


Cassava root peeled

The root cannot be consumed raw, since it contains free and bound cyanogenic glucosides which are converted to cyanide in the presence of linamarase, a naturally occurring enzyme in cassava. Cassava varieties are often categorized as either "sweet" or "bitter", signifying the absence or presence of toxic levels of cyanogenic glucosides. The so-called "sweet" (actually "not bitter") cultivars can produce as little as 20 milligrams of cyanide (CN) per kilogram of fresh roots, while "bitter" ones may produce more than 50 times as much (1 g/kg). Cassavas grown during drought are especially high in these toxins. <ref> Aregheore E. M, Agunbiade O. O. (1991). "The toxic effects of cassava (manihot esculenta grantz) diets on humans: a review.". Vet. Hum. Toxicol. 33: 274-275. </ref> <ref> White W. L. B., Arias-Garzon D. I., McMahon J. M., Sayre R. T. (1998). "Cyanogenesis in Cassava, The Role of Hydroxynitrile Lyase in Root Cyanide Production". Plant Physiol. 116: 1219-1225. </ref>

For some smaller-rooted "sweet" varieties, cooking is sufficient to eliminate all toxicity. The larger-rooted "bitter" varieties used for production of flour or starch must be processed to remove the cyanogenic glucosides. The large roots are peeled and then ground into flour, which is then soaked in water, squeezed dry several times, and toasted. The starch grains that float to the surface during the soaking process are also used in cooking.<ref> G. Padmaja (1995). "Cyanide detoxification in cassava for food and feed uses.". Crit. Rev. Food Sci. Nutr.: 299-339. </ref> The flour is used throughout the Caribbean.


Cooked in various ways, cassava is used in a great variety of dishes. The soft-boiled root has a delicate flavor and can replace boiled potatoes in many uses: as an accompaniment for meat dishes made into purées, dumplings and gnocchi, soups, stews, gravies, etc.. Deep fried (after boiling or steaming), it can replace fried potatoes, with a distinctive flavor. Cassava flour, also called tapioca flour or tapioca starch, can also replace wheat flour, and is so-used by some people with wheat allergy|allergies such as coeliac disease. Tapioca and foufouare made from the starchy cassava root flour. Boba tapioca pearls are made from this root. It is also used in cereals for which several tribes in South America have used it extensively.

The juice of the bitter cassava, boiled to the consistence of thick syrup and flavored with spices is called Cassareep. It is used as a basis for various sauces and as a culinary flavoring, principally in tropical countries. It is exported chiefly from British Guiana.

The leaves are pounded to a fine chaff and cooked as a palaver sauce in Sierra Leone, usually with palm oil but vegetable oil can also be used. Palaver sauces contain meat and fish as well. It is necessary to wash the leaf chaff several times to remove the bitterness.

Ethnomedical uses

  • The bitter variety of Manihotroot is used to treat diarrhea and malaria.
  • The 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.


Cassava is heavily featured in the cuisine of Brazil. The dish vaca atolada ("mud-stranded cow") is a meat and cassava stew, cooked until the root has turned into a paste; and pirão is a thick gravy-like gruel prepared by cooking fish bits (such as heads and bones) with cassava flour, or farinha. In the guise of farofa (lightly roasted flour), cassava combines with rice and beans to make the basic meal of average Brazilians. Farofa is also a standard side dish for feijoada, the famous meat-and-beans stew. Boiled cassava is also made into a popular sweet pudding. Deep-fried (after boiling), it is often eaten as a snack or side dishes.


Cassava is very popular in Bolivia with the name of yuca and consumed in a variety of dishes. It is common, after boiling it, to fry it with oil and eat it with a special hot sauce known as llajwa or along with cheese and choclo (dried maize|corn). In warm and rural areas, yuca is used as a substitute of bread in everyday meals. The capacity of cassava to be stored for a long time makes it suitable as an ideal and cheap reserve of nutrients. Recently, more restaurants, hotels and common people are including cassava into their original recipes and everyday meals as a subtitute for potato and bread.


In Colombia, cassava is widely known as yuca among its people. In the Colombian interior, it is used mainly in the preparation of Sancocho (a kind of rich soup) and other soups. In the Valle del Cauca Department|Valle department is famous the Pandebono bread made of the yuca dough.

In the coastal region, is known especially in the form of "Bollo de yuca" (a kind of bread) or "enyucados". "Bollo de yuca" is a dough made of ground yuca that is wrapped in aluminum foil and then boiled, and is served with butter and cheese. "Enyucado" is a dessert made of ground boiled yuca, anise, sugar, and sometimes guava jam. In the caribbean region of Colombia it is also eaten roasted, fried or boiled with soft homemade cheese or cream cheese and mainly as guarnition of fish dishes.

Dominican Republic

Cassava bread (casabe) is an often used complement in meals, much in the same way as wheat bread is used in Spanish, French and Italian lunches. Also, as an alternative to side-dishes like french fries, arepitas de yuca are consumed, which are deep-fried buttered lumps of shredded cassava. Bollitos, similar to the Colombian ones are also made. The root, in its boiled and peeled form, is also present in the typical Dominican stew, the Sancocho, together with plantains, potatoes, yautía, among other vegetables (it can also be eaten singly as an alternative to boiled potatoes or plantains). Also, a type of empanada called catibía has its dough made out of cassava flour.


As in the Dominican Republic, Cassava bread (casabe) is also a popular complement in traditional meals, as common as the arepas. Venezuelan Casabe is made by roasting ground cassava spread out as meter wide pancake over a hot surface (plancha). The result has the consistency of a cracker, and is broken in small pieces for consumption. There is also a sweet variety, called Naiboa, made as a sandwich of two casabe pancakes with a spread of Rapadura|Papelón in between. Naiboa also has a softer consistency. In general terms, Mandioc is an essential ingredient in Venezuelan food, and can be found stewed, roasted or fried as sides or complements.


Cassava is also popular in Peru, where it is used both boiled and fried. Boiled cassava is usually served as a side dish, while fried cassava is usually served together with onions and capsicum|peppers as an apperitif or accompanying chicha.

Countries in Africa

Woman pounding the cassava root into fufu in the Central African Republic.

In the humid and sub-humid areas of tropical Africa, cassava is either a primary staple food or a secondary co-staple. Nigeria is the world's largest producer of cassava. In West Africa, particularly in Nigeria and Sierra Leone, cassava is commonly prepared as Eba or Garri. The cassava is grated, pressed, fermented and fried then mixed with boiling water to form a thick paste. In West Africa the cassava root is pounded, mixed with boiling water to form a thick paste and cooked as Eba. Historically, people economically forced to depend on cassava risk chronic poisoning diseases, such as tropical ataxic neuropathy (TAN), or such malnutrition diseases as kwashiorkor and endemic goitre. However, the price of cassava has risen significantly in the last half decade and lower income people have turned to other carbohydrate-rich foods like rice and spaghetti.

In Central Africa, cassava is traditionally processed by boiling and mashing. The resulting mush can be mixed with spices then cooked further or stored. A popular snack is made by marinating cassava in salted water for a few days then grilling it in small portions. Many cassava dishes exist in various African countries.

In Tanzania, cassava is known as mihogo, plural form, in Swahili. Though customs vary from region to region, and the methods of cooking cassava vary accordingly, the main method is simply frying it. The skin of the root is removed and the remains are sectioned into small bit-size chunks which can then be soaked in water to aid in frying. Thereafter, the chunks are fried and then served, sometimes with a chili-salt mixture. This fried cassava is a very common street food as it is relatively cheap to buy, easy to prepare and good to eat.

Residents in the Sub-Saharan nation of the Central African Republic, have developed multiple, unique ways of utilizing the abundant cassava plant. In addition to the methods described above, local residents fry thin slices of the cassava root resulting in a crunchy snack similar in look and taste to potato chips. The root can be pounded into flour and made into bread or cookies. This flour can also be mixed with precise amounts of salt and water to create a heavy liquid used as white paint in construction. The cassava plant leaf is also soaked and boiled for extended periods of time to remove toxins and then eaten. The taste is similar to spinach. In the local language Sango, this is called gozo. U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers stationed in the Central African Republic refer to the cassava plant as the multi-purpose staple.


Boiled casava served with fish and chutney

In the state of Kerala, India, cassava is a secondary staple food. Boiled casava is normally eaten with fish curry (kappayum meenum in Malayalam) or meat, and is a traditional favorite of many Keralians. Kappa biriyani — cassava mixed with meat is a popular dish in central Kerala. In Tamil Nadu, the National Highway 68 between Thalaivasal and Attur has many cassava processing factories (local name Sago Factory) alongside it - indicating an abundance of it in the neighborhood. Cassava is widely cultivated and eaten as staple food in Andhra Pradesh. The household name for processed cassava is sabu dana or saggu biyyam.


Cassava is widely eaten in Indonesia, and used as a staple food during hard times but has lower status than rice. It is boiled or fried (after steaming), baked under hot coals, or added to kolak dessert. It is also fermented to make peuyeum and tape (Indonesian cuisine)|tape, a sweet paste which can be mixed with sugar and made into a drink, the alcoholic (and green) es tape. It is available as an alternative to potato crisps. Gaplek, a dried form of cassava, is an important source of calories in the off-season in the limestone hills of southern Java. Their young leaves also eaten as gulai daun singkong (cassava leaves in coconut milk), urap (javanese salad) and as main ingredient in buntil (javanese vegetable rolls).

Animal feed

Cassava is used as animal feed extensively in Asia, South America, Africa, and Europe. Especially in places such as Thailand, China, Nigeria, Brazil, etc.

Cassava hay

Cassava hay, is hay which is produced at a young growth stage, 3-4 months and being harvested about 30-45 cm above ground, sun-dried for 1-2 days until having final dry matter of at least 85%. The cassava hay contains high protein content, 20-27% CP and condensed tannins, 1.5-4%. It is used as a good roughage source for dairy, beef, buffalo, goats, sheep by either directing feeding or as a protein source in the concentrate mixtures. More details can be searched from Metha Wanapat AJAS,Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences.

Cassava pests

In Africa the cassava mealybug (Phenacocus manihoti) and cassava green mite (Monoychellus tanajoa) can cause up to 80% crop loss, which is extremely detrimental to the production of subsistence farmers. These pests were rampant in the 1970s and 1980s but were brought under control following the establishment of the Biological Control Centre for Africa. The Centre investigated biological control for cassava pests; two South American insects Epidinicarsis lopezi and Typhlodromalus aripo were found to effectively control the cassava mealybug and the cassava green mite respectively.

The cassava mosaic virus causes the leaves of the cassava plant to wither, limiting the growth of the root. The virus is spread by the whitefly and by the transplanting of diseased plants into new fields. Sometime in the late 1980s, a mutation occurred in Uganda that made the virus even more harmful, causing the complete loss of leaves. This mutated virus has been spreading at a rate of 50 miles per year, and as of 2005 may be found throughout Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Congo. [1]

See also

  • Arracacha
  • Potato
  • List of plants of Amazon Rainforest vegetation of Brazil


  1. Aregheore E. M, Agunbiade O. O. (1991). "The toxic effects of cassava (manihot esculenta grantz) diets on humans: a review.". Vet. Hum. Toxicol. 33: 274-275.
  2. White W. L. B., Arias-Garzon D. I., McMahon J. M., Sayre R. T. (1998). "Cyanogenesis in Cassava, The Role of Hydroxynitrile Lyase in Root Cyanide Production". Plant Physiol. 116: 1219-1225.
  3. G. Padmaja (1995). "Cyanide detoxification in cassava for food and feed uses.". Crit. Rev. Food Sci. Nutr.: 299-339.

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