Cassava or also known as Yuca or Yucca is an excellent root vegetables that grows easily in the tropics. The latin name is Manihot esculenta, and it is in the Euphorbiaceae (spurge family). Throughout the tropics it is grown for its use as a starch vegetable, cassava flour/tapioca starch, breads, tapioca, and it is also distilled into an alcoholic beverage.
As I write this article on how to cook fresh cassava – I am actually experimenting with it for my first time. I’ve lived on my husband’s farm on the Big Island now for 6 years but for the first several years any time our cassava crop was ready the wild boar population on our farm would devastate them. Finally, after putting a solar electric sheep netting farm around our huge garden we decided to dedicate some space to planting cassava. We planted it last spring and now the roots are huge!
Cassava has a compound called cyanogenic glycosides which are toxic. Cooking reduces it to safe levels. Cooking water should be discarded after cooking.
Cassava is rich in complex carbohydrates, iron, and fiber and is a healthy unprocessed food choice to incorporate into a balanced diet. It is also renowned for it’s effect on fertility and is thought to increase or cause hyperovulation, in turn increasing likelihood of twins. There is actually an entire industry based around cassava root as a fertility supplement although peer reviewed scientific articles seem harder to come by.
To prepare the fresh cassava root…
- Using a sharp butchers knife, cut off the ends of the root to make an even cut.
- Then, cut into about 2 inch size chunks, about as long as your fingers.
- With a pairing knife make an incision in the thick skin and remove peel to expose just the white interior of the root.
- And then cut in half twice, making four pieces as pictured below. Cassava has a hard, fibrous core. If the diameter is about a big as your fist, you’re going to want to consider cutting out the core as pictured below. You can also just cook it first and remove core later.
- You can cook cassava a few ways:
- You can steam, boil, or pressure cook cassava. After doing the inital cooking you can them do a shallow pan fry to make yucca fries, or use your air fryer.
If you want to get more creative try using cassava as a starch in a veggie burger recipe, like my Cassava Quinoa Burgers. I also use them as a starch in various pureed soups like a green bean and cassava soup, pumpkin and casssava soup, etc. I’ve even used them in place of potatoes in my breakfast fritattas.