Tapioca-Cassava Root

The tapioca plant (manihot esculenta), is a very common plant, which is cultivated all over the world. It is known by many names, differing from country to country. In America, it is known as cassava. It is also known in other parts of the world as yucca, mandioca, manioc, manihot, sweet potato tree, kachalu, Shimla aloo, etc. So don’t be surprised if you go to the market and don’t find tapioca. It may be there as one of these names!

The tapioca plant is basically a woody shrub, which hails from the class Magnoliopsida. Theoritically, this plant may be grown all the year round, but it is generally grown all the year round as it is an annual crop. It generally prefers tropical or sub tropical regions for better growth. It is generally planted in early spring though, because it grows very slowly in its early part, and is highly susceptible to frosts.

The root of this plant is long and tapering. The plant is valued mainly for its roots, which are starchy, tuberous and has a rich content of carbohydrates. It has a fleshy interior, which is encased in a rough woody rind, which can be removed. The skinned root is then kept under water for an appropriate period of time, before being cooked.

The plant itself is not tall, growing to an average height of about 60 – 80 cm. Its width ranges from 5 – 10 cm in diameter. Do not mix the tapioca tree with tapioca. Tapioca is the starch which is extracted from the root of this plant.

Tapioca is a staple food for people of some regions, though it is mostly used as a thickener all over the world. It is completely free of gluten, and is almost totally free of proteins.

Buying Tips
If you have gone to the market to buy the roots of the tapioca plant, make sure that the root is firm and healthy. Avoid going for those which have absorbed too much water and is wilting, as they are not fresh.

If you are going for the ready made tapioca powder on the other hand, make sure that it does not form lumps. Also check the date of manufacture and make sure that your buying is well ahead of its expiry date.

Culinary Usage
Tapioca can be cooked in a variety of ways. It is a staple food in many parts of the world. However, tapioca can also be cooked and eaten. Some common culinary usages of this vegetable are:

  1. The tapioca is first washed thoroughly (because often times this vegetable passes through a lot of dirt, and thus may contain harmful bacteria), and then chopped into tiny pieces and then eaten.
  2. The tapioca root may also be cut longitudinally with a sharp knife, and these strips may be used in various recipes, as per the requirements of the consumer. It is sometimes used to make a sort of porridge, along with milk or butter.
  3. The outer skin of the tapioca plant may be peeled away, and the soft, succulent interior may be consumed. It is considered to be a delicacy.
  4. It can also be grated, using a grater; or may be cut into the form of cubes. These may be used in different recipes, as per the user’s choices. It may also be steam boiled and served.
  5. One common method of cooking this vegetable, by blanching it. That is, it is boiled in hot water for around a minute, and then quickly cooled down. This can then be fried in sesame oil, or had with garlic, or other spices depending on the palate of the consumer.
  6. In most parts of the world, tapioca is used as a thickener.
  7. In Brazil, which is the leading producer of tapioca at present, a very common cuisine is mixing the tapioca thoroughly and draining it through a sieve or muslin, and then it is sprinkled with coconut.

If you have brought the tapioca roots, store it in a dry air tight container or plastic bags in the refrigerator. Make sure you have it within a week at most. If, however, you have bought the tapioca powder, or the starch which you have extracted from the tapioca root, then you can safely store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 – 3 months.

Medicinal Values
Ivy gourd has beta carotene, which is one of the main sources of Vitamin A. This helps in immunizing your body.

Tapioca has a large quantity of minerals, especially calcium. Calcium helps in making your bones and teeth stronger, thus making your body solid.

Tapioca is rich in other minerals too, like potassium and iron. These elements are very vital for the functioning of our body, and cannot be obtained by the body from any other sources other than vegetables.

If you have loose bowel movements, or loose motion as it is commonly known, then tapioca should be in your diet. It helps in relieving constipation. They also lower any risks of cancer, especially colon cancer, and also cardiovascular diseases.

Where to Buy Tapioca in USA
Brazil is the leading tapioca producers in the world. Tapioca is also grown widely in North America, mainly in Costa Rica, Haiti and Honduras. Tapioca, or Cassava as it is known in USA, is also heavily imported and exported from these regions. In USA, tapioca is grown in the Miami-Dade county of Florida. However, it is found in all parts of USA, because of its heavy import.

Nutritional and Dietary Information
Due to its high carbohydrate content, tapioca is used as a staple food in many parts of the world. It has got almost 40% more carbohydrate content than maize, and around 25% more than rice.

Tapioca consists of almost 45% carbohydrate, and 13% iron. It also has other minerals like calcium and potassium. It may have low vitamin content, but makes up by its rich mineral content. It also has a lot of essential fatty acids, which are vital for our body!

Thus, you can clearly see how useful a vegetable this is and it serves as a staple food.

Nutrition Facts
Servings Size 152g
Calories 544
Total Carbohydrate 45%
Dietary Fiber 5%
Calcium 3%
Iron 13%
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because it has not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.



  1. Margaret Lee says:

    I love to consume a lot of cassava in my diet. How will this affect my health?

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