Cassava – also known as manioc, yucca and tapioca, – is a staple feed plant for large swaths of the planet. According to the USDA, cassava ranks fourth among staple crops around the world.
Cassava is grown primarily in three regions:
- West Africa & Congo basin
- South America
- South and Southeast Asia
The root of bitter cassava is poisonous when consumed raw. Cooking destroys the poisonous hydrocyanic glucosides (HCN) in all parts of the plant.
Globally, the root is used for both human consumption and cattle feed. If prepared properly, the leaves can be eaten as well.
From a nutritional standpoint – like most staple foods – cassava is a poor source of protein, but rich in calories from starch, and has a decent amount of B vitamins. One cup of raw cassava has just under 4 grams of dietary fiber.
While largely unknown to Western populations in developed countries, cassava production tops 160 million tons per year. There are a number of international bodies promoting the use of cassava, including the World Food Programme. Check out their Global Cassava Development strategy by clicking here.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, Indonesia is getting on the cassava train as well, attempting to reposition a nation’s dependence on that other, slightly more popular staple grain: rice.