Sweet cassava is the starchy root of a perennial tropical shrub that grows roughly 2 meters in height. Cassava is a hardy plant, surviving in even drought conditions and harsh climates. Cassava is believed to have originated in Brazil or Paraguay, but has spread throughout many tropical regions of the world. Cassava is the third largest staple crop in the world sustaining over half a billion people living in developing regions.
In Brazilian mythology, cassava was portrayed as a savior, protecting the people from starvation. One particular myth portrayed a woman by the name of Tupi, who witnessed her child starve to death. She buried her son under the floor of her hut and during the night she was visited by a wood spirit by the name of 'Mani' who turned the child's body into the root of a plant, calling it 'Mani oca,' which translates to 'wood spirit root.' This food became the primary staple food of many tropical regions.
Despite being commonly referred to as yuca, it is not the same plant as yucca, which is a fruit-bearing shrub in the Asparagaceae family.
Cassava is classified as sweet or bitter, based on the amount of harmful precursors found in a kilogram of the raw root. Sweet cassava contains the lowest amounts of these precursors, and for this reason, bitter cassava is usually only resorted to as a food source in times of severe famine. However, with proper preparation, these substances are effectively and safely removed from the root in both sweet and bitter varieties of cassava.
Cassava has many nutritional advantages. Cassava contains nearly twice the amount of calories found in potatoes, with 160 calories per 100 grams of cassava. Cassava is low in fats and proteins, however, contains more protein than found in foods like yams, potatoes and plantains. Cassava is high in B-complex vitamins, including folate, thiamin, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), riboflavin and pantothenic acid. Cassava also contains other important vitamins, minerals and nutrients such as zinc, magnesium, copper, iron, potassium and manganese. Cassava is also free of gluten, making it an ideal starch for individuals with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivities.
Sweet cassava is also known as; aipim, balangai, balinghoy, manioc, yuca, balinghoy, mogo, mandioca, kamoteng kahoy, kasava, marachini, mara valle killangu, Mu Shu and tapioca root
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