The Cassava (Scientific Name: Manihot Esculenta) is a shrubby perennial plant originating in Brazil and known to flourish in tropical zones. A common use of cassava is tapioca, which is made by grinding the leaves of the cassava plant. Tapioca is used in puddings, chips and other snacks. The cassava root, which resembles a potato, is also eaten. Cassava plants generally grow well in tropical climates, and are known to flourish even in poor soil. It is found in the wild in Central and South America. There are more than 10,000 varieties of this plant, and farmers across the world choose the species that are more adapted to their growing conditions.
The cassava is a staple food for about 500 million people around the world. The edible parts of the cassava are the roots and leaves. The roots resemble sweet potatoes and are rich in carbohydrates, and the leaves are rich in vitamins and protein. Although similar to potatoes, the cassava is higher in potassium and has twice the fiber content.
Cassava Flour and Tapioca Flour
Cassava Flour is made by cooking, drying and then grinding the cassava roots. This flour is different from tapioca flour, which is made from the leaves of the cassava plant. Both of them are gluten-free, so they are used widely by those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
Uses of Cassava Flour
Cassava is often used as a substitute for wheat flour, especially to make breads, cakes, pasta and dumplings. It is also used to make starchy custards and puddings. In countries where wheat has to be imported and is in limited supply, bread is made by mixing cassava flour with wheat flour. Cassava flour is known to attract fewer insects and pests than normal wheat flour. Cassava flour's starchy texture makes it an excellent thickener, and it is used to thicken soups, baby foods, puddings, sauces and gravies. Cassava flour is also used as a binding agent in sausages and processed meats to keep the meat together and ensure that it does not dry out completely while it is cooked.
Uses of Tapioca Flour
Tapioca flour, which is made from the ground leaves of the cassava plant, is also used as a substitute for wheat or other carbohydrates. It is a very popular flour among bakers, because it gives breads and cakes a white finish and a chewy texture. It has no strong aroma of its own, so it is an ideal choice as a thickener because it does not interfere with or overpower the taste or smell of any dish.