Yucca is a starchy plant widely grown and consumed in the southwestern United States, Central America and the Caribbean, where it is often used as a substitute for the potato. Touted as a valuable source of vitamins A, B and C, as well as being rich in potassium, iron and phosphorous, yucca is also hailed for its anti-inflammatory properties. It is often sold in powdered form by health food stores as a remedy for arthritis. It's also very tasty, and when boiled and then baked, yucca fries offer a healthy alternative to regular potato french fries.
Fill a cooking pot with enough water to cover your yucca root. Salt the water (optional) and bring it to a boil.
Meanwhile, scrape or peel off the brown crusty skin from the yucca root, much like you would a carrot or turnip. You can use a paring knife to do this, although this outer skin can be quite tough, with a slightly waxy texture like tree bark, and is not as easy to peel as many other root vegetables. A peeler might work better.
Place the peeled yucca in the boiling water, turn down the heat to medium high and let cook for 20 to 25 minutes, just as you would when boiling potatoes. When the yucca is fork tender, take it out of the pan with tongs and set it on a cutting board. Let the yucca cool for 10 to 15 minutes.
While you're waiting for the yucca to cool, make a sour cream dip for your yucca fries by mixing the sour cream with the crushed garlic, the juice of a lemon and the cilantro leaves. Refrigerate.
Cut the yucca into strips about 1 inch thick and 2 to 3 inches long, as if you were cutting steak fries. Toss the yucca fries in olive oil to coat, and then sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Arrange the fries in a single layer on a shallow baking sheet and place in a 450 F oven. Turn the fries after 15 minutes and continue to bake for another 15 minutes or until the texture is to your liking. Serve with the dip as an appetizer or as a side dish.
For a lower-fat version of the dip, substitute low-fat plain yogurt for the sour cream. If you prefer the fries to be less crispy and more tender, bake them longer, but lower the oven temperature to 375 to 400 F.
When buying yucca root, avoid those with soft areas; yucca root should be firm throughout.