Cassava (also called yuca or manioc) is a nutraceutic root vegetable with a clean and neutral flavor. It’s one of the world’s primary staple foods and the third most relied upon staple in the tropics. Cassava is a crucial part of the global diet.
It may sound foreign to the ear, but many popular American foods are actually made with cassava. If you’ve ever had bubble tea, yuca fries, or tapioca pudding, you’ve eaten a food derived from the root. Tapioca is cassava starch; the starch is extracted from the root and formed into the iconic tapioca “pearls.”
Mayans first cultivated cassava 1,400 years ago, depending on the root for its energy, nutrient density, and arability. These are the same reasons that 500 million people from Aruba to Zambia use cassava as a staple food today.
Boosting Our Health
Cassava contains significant amounts of calcium, phosphorus, manganese, iron and potassium, and a moderate amount of protein. This diverse nutrient panel makes cassava a crucial sustenance in the developing world and creates a variety of health benefits in products like Siete tortillas.
The proteins that cassava does contain are optimized for human consumption. Cassava root can have up to a fifty-fifty ratio of whole proteins to free amino acids. This high ratio of amino acids to free proteins results in specialized health effects, and cassava contains a number of recommended amino acids.
Not only is cassava anti-inflammatory and gluten-free, but it actually aids in the digestive process. Recent research suggests that cassava is a gut-friendly prebiotic1. Prebiotics are foods that build a venue and promote a party for beneficial bacteria, while serving as a bouncer for shady characters like E-Coli 1572. It also retains the majority of its nutrients in processing, something that is not true of many other staples3.
Conserving The Environment
Research indicates that Cassava can produce 250,000 calories-per-hectare, ranking it well above corn, rice, and wheat, which all produce in the mid-100,000s4.
As you can see from the table above, cassava produces the greatest kilojoule and tonnage yield of all staple starches. In other words, farmers require less space to produce more food. In addition, cassava can be effectively grown with other plants and in soil types of differing quality. Because of this, growing cassava, as an alternative to other staples, reduces deforestation5, increases biodiversity, and encourages intercropping and soil enrichment6.
Which is all to say that cassava farming allows for a system that keeps the Earth green, breathing, and diverse in its beauty. Using cassava in our Siete tortillas helps us enjoy them with Mother Nature; she gives you an air-five every time you eat one.
Safe Processing Of Cassava
Cassava root must be processed properly to be safe for human consumption. Native peoples of Central and South America have prepared and eaten cassava root for over 1000 years. (Archeologists have found pre-Columbian cassava presses!) The skin of the root contains cyanogenic compounds, so tribes who ate the root on a daily basis would peel, soak, press, dry, and/or bake the cassava to ensure its safety. Modern processing techniques, like those used for the cassava in Siete tortillas, have turned this art into a science7. All of our cassava is processed into flour in a modern facility designed to produce high-quality, ultra-safe, nutrient-dense cassava flour.
Because our producer uses the entire cassava root in the milling of the flour, there is occasionally toothsomeness or grittiness in our cassava base tortillas. When searching for the perfect cassava flour, we opted for a greater variety of texture in order to retain the root's high-fiber content. The milling of super-fine cassava flour results in the loss of the diverse nutritional profile that makes cassava such an attractive option in the first place.
- Osundahunsi, Williams & Oluwalana, 2012. Prebiotic effects of cassava fibre as an ingredient in cracker-like products. Food & Function.
- Kamalu, 1991. Digestibility of a nutritionally-balanced cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) diet and its effect on growth in young male dogs. Journal of Nutrition.
- Davis, Montagnac & Tanumihardjo, 2009. Nutritional Value of Cassava for Use as a Staple Food and Recent Advances for Improvement. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety.
- Okigbo, 1980. Nutritional implications of projects giving high priority to the production of staples of low nutritive quality: The Case for Cassava (Manihot esculenta, Crantz) in the Humid Tropics of West Africa. Tropical Agriculture.
- FAO, 2000. Effect of Cassava Production on Biodiversity.
- Dung, Ledin & Mui, 2005. Intercropping cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) with Flemingia (Flemingia macrophylla); effect on biomass yield and soil fertility. Livestock Research for Rural Development
- Cereda, 1994. Caracterizacão dos resíduos da industrializacão da mandioca. São Paulo: Paulicéia, 1994: 1-50.