Botanical Name: Manihot esculenta
Some other names: yuca, tapioca, mandico, alpim
How to grow it: Cassava is a short lived perennial bush that can grow to several metres. It’s an attractive plant with lush foliage on red-green stems.
Cassava is grown extensively in the tropics & sub-tropics and will do best in these climates. Will have a shorter growing season in cooler climates and is better treated as a annual – planted when the weather has warmed up.
Likes full sun and a position where the soil drains well. Cassava likes a regular supply of water, but does very well in drought conditions. As long as there is some water in the season, it will continue to produce. I’ve found it will grow well in poor soils as long as it doesn’t get waterlogged.
Propogation is by stem cuttings. In late winter or early spring, cut off a large stem from the dormant plant. Then cut the stem into 15-20cm pieces with at least two nodes on them. Plant them in position or in pots & they’ll strike quite easily when the weather warms up.
Grows OK in pots, but you’ll need big ones if you plan to harvest the tubers
Nutrition: Cassava roots are mainly a source of carbohydrates, but are also high in calcium, phosphorous & vitamin C.
The leaves are high in protein.
Cassava contains varying levels of Hydrocyanic Acid which is poisonous to both humans and animals. Both the leaves & the tubers must be cooked to remove this toxin. There are low toxic varieties, and I know in some cultures the leaves are eaten raw, but I’d recommend cooking at all times.
Using it in the kitchen:
To use Cassava leaves, they must first be boiled in water for 10 minutes, with the water discarded.
Then they can be added to salads, soups, casseroles, and curries.
The tubers can be used just like you would potatoes. They make great chips or roast veges. Remove the skin & rinse in water before use.
Cassava makes a great survival food as it’s hardy to drought conditions and both the leaves & roots can be eaten.
The large lobed leaves can be harvested regularly during the growing season & make great mulch for the garden.