Manioc plant (Manihot utilissima)
Manioc, also called Cassava, Yuca, Mandioca, and Kamoting Kaoy, is a perennial woody shrubby plant, 1 to 3 meters (3 to 9 feet) tall, with jointed stems and deep green, fingerlike leaves. It has long, fleshy, tapered rootstocks encased in a detachable rind which is rough and brown on the outside. The flesh of the root can be chalk-white or yellowish.
Where to find Manioc plants
Manioc is widespread in all tropical climates, particularly in moist areas. Although cultivated extensively, it may be found in abandoned gardens and grow wild in many areas.
Edible parts of the Manioc plant
The rootstocks are full of starch and high in food value. Two kinds of manioc are known: bitter and sweet. Both are edible. The bitter type contains poisonous hydrocyanic acid.
To prepare manioc, first grind the fresh manioc root into a pulp, then cook it for at least 1 hour to remove the bitter poison from the roots. Then flatten the pulp into cakes and bake it as bread. Manioc cakes or flour will keep almost indefinitely if protected against insects and dampness. Wrap manioc in banana leaves for protection.
The leaves can be finely cut and boiled.
Manioc is primarily a carbohydrate source and although a poor source of protein, the quality of root protein is very good in terms of amino acids.
Note: For safety, always cook the roots of either type. Improper preparation of Manioc can leave enough cyanide to cause partial paralysis.
Other uses for the Manioc plant
There are several other uses of the Manioc plant, including:
- Industrial Use: The Manioc plant has a high starch content, making it a valuable raw material in the production of various industrial products such as textiles, paper, and ethanol.
- Medicinal Use: Manioc leaves and roots contain several compounds that have medicinal properties. For instance, Manioc root extracts have been used to treat fever, diarrhea, and headaches.
- Animal Feed: Manioc leaves and stems are rich in protein and other nutrients, making them a suitable feed for livestock such as pigs, cows, and goats.
- Biofuel: The high starch content in Manioc makes it an excellent source of biofuel. It can be processed to produce bioethanol, which is a renewable and cleaner alternative to fossil fuels.
- Traditional Use: In some cultures, Manioc is used in traditional rituals and ceremonies. For instance, in Brazil, Manioc flour is used in the preparation of a traditional dish called “farofa,” which is served during special occasions.