Monday, December 18, 2017

A focus on yuca

Manioc roots, also known as cassava or yucaYuca, spelled with one c and also known as cassava or manioc, is a nutty flavored, starch-tuber, that probably originated from the South-American forests. This starch rich root, which is a great source for calcium, phosphorus and vitamin C, used to be the staple diet of the Taino indians, and is still widely used in Dominican cuisine. It does well on poor soils and with low rainfall, and because it is a perennial it can be harvested as required, making it an ideal crop for low income farmers.



Cassava plants in a plantationHealth benefits
Cassava has nearly twice the calories of potatoes and is perhaps one of the highest value calorie foods when it comes to tubers and roots. Only 100 grams of the root provides 160 calories, with its calorie value mainly coming from sucrose which accounts for more than 69% of total sugars.

On the other hand, cassava is very low in fats and despite having little protein it still has more than other typically tropical food sources like yam, potatoes and plantains. It is also gluten free and a source of some important minerals including zinc, magnesium, copper, iron, and manganese.

Poisonous when eaten raw
Cassava is classified as either sweet or bitter, and both varieties contain levels of cyanide with the bitter varieties containing much larger amounts. Proper preparation is therefore essential.

Manioc roots, also known as cassava or yucaSweet cassava roots can generally be made safe to eat by peeling and thorough cooking. However, bitter cassava roots require more extensive processing. One of the traditional ways to prepare bitter cassava roots is by first peeling and grating the roots, after which the gratings are soaked in water for an extended period of time to allow leaching and fermentation to take place. The brew needs to be thoroughly cooked after that to release the volatile hydrogen cyanide gas. Whilst fresh cassava requires traditional methods to reduce its toxicity, adequately processed cassava flour and cassava-based products have very low cyanide contents and are considered safe to use.

Yuca and the Tainos
Delicious casabeManioc was so important for the Taino indians that they even dedicated one of their main gods to the root: Yúcahu, which means spirit of cassava. This supreme deity represented fertility and agriculture, as well as peace, tranquility and goodness.

The Tainos were good at extracting the poison from the root and used to dip their arrows in the cyanide. The root itself was processed into flower and the women would make bread with it. The resulting thin, hard round bread could be kept for many months without getting stale or moldy. Corn, which they also grew, was not used for flower or bread, probably because corn bread would get moldy much faster than cassava bread in the high humidity of the West Indies. Instead they cooked the cobs and ate them like that.

Casabe, or yuca bread, sold commerciallyCassava bread
Despite the demise of the Taino Indians their cassava bread recipe is still made much the same way now as it was then. Even now, the manioc bread called Casabe is a Dominican cuisine staple and is a much-desired accompaniment for many typical Dominican dishes. As it takes a lot of work to make, most people buy commercially available casabe, which is readily available at most stores.
Check out these eleven dietary health benefits of eating cassava bread

Other ways of eating manioc
It’s often cooked in stews and soups including the absolutely amazing traditional dish Sancocho. Less traditionally but probably just as good, Dominicans also cut the root into strips and deep fry them like French fries. Also delicious Dominican empanadas, deep-fried dough pockets stuffed with meat, are made with yucca flour.

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