Cassava, which also also referred to as the yuca, among many other names, is a shrub native to South America, grown primarily for its carbohydrate-rich tuberous root. Today, it forms part of the basic diet of the people in the developing world, thanks in part to its drought tolerance, but it should be noted that is not a good source of protein. On the other hand, it is a good source of calcium, phosphorous, and Vitamin C.
Cassava must be prepared accordingly prior to consumption, as the toxins it contains can be extremely harmful to people and animals, to the point of partial paralysis or ataxia. Cassava may be cooked in various ways to be detoxified, such as by boiling, frying, or grounding and drying. Cassava can be sweet or bitter, depending on the variety, and the latter is often preferred by farmers because of its capacity to deter pests. In addition to the roots, the leaves may also be cooked and eaten, after having been washed numerous times for the bitterness to be removed. Its leaves are a good source of protein.
How to Grow Cassava
In order to grow cassava successfully, one must give the perennial woody shrub exactly what it would get in its native land. It can be grown easily in poor soil, and with little watering, but better conditions will provide a bigger harvest. Preparing the soil to grow cassava will require a pH that ranges from acidic to alkaline, and annual watering between 50 ml and 5 meters, much like what it would receive when grown in its natural habitat.
Harvesting cassava is typically done by hand. One only needs to raise and hold the lower stem and tug, which will extract the roots from the ground. Then, they must be removed from the plant’s base. Plucking the upper leaves of the stems must be done prior to harvesting. The best time to propagate is before the wet season. The roots, however, undergo deterioration, once separated from the stem, which could easily render them useless, although plant breeding has made them more tolerant.
Although grown in Africa, South America and Asia, the cassava plant can be grown virtually anywhere, if given the proper conditions, which include time to grow and lots of heat. Pick the healthiest stems from the plant, with tubers, and store in a cool place for 10 days. Although you can grow cassava in the poorest of soil, the richer and moister it is, the better. Work in compost and loosen the soil. Create ridges that are between 6 and 10 inches in height, and evenly spaced by a yard. Then cut the stems into 6 inch sections and plant it into the ground. Pressing down, you must bury half the stem and push the soil up around it. Ensure the ground is maintained weed-free and watered as necessary. After 10 months, you will be able to harvest the tubers. As soon as the tubers are cut, they must be prepared, otherwise they will spoil.
Written by Staff Writer
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