Cassava (also known as manioc, yucca, and tapioco) is a great staple crop for the tropical home garden. Both the young leaves and starchy tubers are edible and can easily replace the potato, which is better suited to cooler climates. Popular throughout Africa, the leaves (a good source of protein and vitamin) are boiled and mashed, and often served over rice. The roots, however, are more widely consumed throughout Africa, the Americas, and Asia as a staple starch. The tubers are a good source of potassium and often the main source of important minerals like zinc, magnesium, copper, and iron in parts of the tropics. Boiled in cubes or mashed like potatoes is a common way to prepare manioc, but my favorites are the hash-like preparations. Important! Cassava leaves and tubers do contain cyanide and must be thoroughly cooked before eating. However, there is no cause for concern if you practice safe handling and preparation.
In the tropics and subtropics cassava can be grown as an attractive and productive perennial crop. The large, dark leaves look very tropical and would add great structure and privacy to an edible tropical garden. To grow, simply obtain 2′ long cane cuttings from a healthy cassava plant and bury 1/4 at a slight angle to mounded soil. With a moderate supply of water, you should be able to harvest in 6-12 months. You want to harvest close to the time you intend to use the cassava as it does not keep for long periods. When ready, chop the stems down about 1′ from the base. Save these stems for new plantings. Dig carefully within the top few feet of soil around the base and keep in mind that the tubers can be as thick as your thigh and almost as long as the same. You will find dark, flaky roots that almost appear to be covered in bark. For cooking, this flaky outer skin can be slit down the length of the tuber and easily removed. You will also want to remove the fibrous core from the center before boiling or grating the root for the following recipes.
2 Great Cassava Recipes
Arepitas de Yucca (Yucca Fritters)
We found a great recipe for fried Yucca patties, similar to those I enjoyed in Honduras, at MarisCakes.
Golden and crispy on the outside but soft and moist inside, these are similar to potato hash rounds.
See step-by-step at Maris.
This is another favorite via PaleoSpirit to substitute traditional potato hash (see top image). The bacon and sage give it a satisfying meaty feel.
Peel the cassava with a potato peeler and dice into small (1/2 inch) pieces.
Place diced cassava in a pan of cold water and bring to a simmer, cooking until not quite done and still firm, 3-4 minutes. Strain and set aside.
Cook the diced bacon on medium heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy. Strain the bacon out of the pan and reserve.
Cook the diced onion in the bacon fat until softened, about 4 minutes.
Add the partially cooked cassava, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to the pan and sauté until fully cooked and browned on the outside. Approximately 10 minutes. (Add a little bit of water if the mixture sticks too much.) Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
Both versions of Manioc hash go well with the fresh fish and tropical greens we regularly enjoy.