Over the years, plants have remained an indispensable part of our lives. Yes, you can bet me on this because without plants, life will not be complete. Plants play essential role in the cycle of nature because life depends greatly on them, for example, plants provide us food, medicine, shelter, fragrance, clothing, flavours and fresh air. Being an integral source of food, photosynthesis, organic matter and air circulation to us, the need to continuously tap into some nitty gritty of what these plants can offer to us is crucial. One of such essential plants is cassava and this post details some remarkable benefits of cassava you definitely need to know.

Peradventure you haven't heard about this root crop, here is a brief introduction of cassava. Cassava, which is botanically known as Manihot esculenta Crantz is one of the major staple food in the world with an international production of approximately 160 million tons annually. It is a perennial woody plant with edible roots that thrives mainly in the tropical and subtropical parts of the world.

One distinguishing characteristics of cassava is its tendency to grow and survive in harsh/drought land conditions where other crops fail to thrive well. Cassava is mostly intercropped in farmlands with other food crops such as yam, plantain, maize, legumes, fluted pumpkin vegetablespotatoes, coconut, groundnut, palm kernel trees and melon.

Nigeria is known to be the largest producer of cassava in the world, followed by Brazil, Thailand, Zaire and Indonesia respectively. Other countries such as Colombia, French Guiana, Guyana, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Mozambique, Uganda, Ghana, Suriname, north of Australia, Venezuela, east of India, Tanzania, Peru, Madagascar, south of China, west of New Guinea and the Republic of Congo also produce cassava. 

Other names for cassava includes; tapioca, mandioca, casabe, manioc, Brazilian arrowroot and Yucca root. Different parts of the world equally have different names for cassava for example, the Igbo people call it abacha, jigbo or akpu, Malayalams call it Kappa, Yoruba people call it gbaguda or ege, it is known as Mara Genasu in Kannada, yuca in Jamaica and Simla Alu, Urhobos call it imidaka, Tamil people refer to it as Kuchi Kizhangu or Maravallli Kizhangu, Hindus refer to it as कसावा - kasava or Kaisava, Hausa people refer to it as doyar kudu, rogo or karaza, Telugu people call it Kavva pendalam, the Benin people call it Igari while the Efik refers to it as iwa unene.

remarkable benefits of cassava Cassava Leaves

Apart from being mainly grown for its starchy roots, other parts of this plant such as the leaves, stems etc offer us with several essential benefits. Both the pharmaceutical, paper, brewing and textile industries use cassava for manufacturing assorted products for human consumption and usage.  

Interestingly, studies reveal that cassava contains no gluten and this suggests why it is very suitable for individuals with celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that usually occurs in genetically susceptible individuals where the consumption of gluten food leads to damage in the small intestine. As a result, celiac patients have intolerance to the prolamins present in wheat and cereals. Albeit, the most effective remedy for this disease is strictly abstaining from gluten-containing food. 

It is worthy to note that due to the presence of cyanoglucosides in cassava tubers, it highly important to processing them in other to eliminate these harmful substances. Cassava is usually processed to eliminate the anti-nutritional factors, reduce the toxicity, reduce the cyanoglucosides to a safe level, improve the taste and make it suitable for storage. Before cassava can be consumed, it usually undergoes the following procedures; peeling, washing, crushing, fermenting, boiling, steaming, frying, roasting or sun-drying.

Remarkable Benefits of Cassava

1. Nutritional Values of Cassava
Cassava is an excellent source of vitamin K, copper, calcium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, iron, manganese, saponins, potassium, carbohydrates, dietary fiber and protein. It is also a good source of B-complex group of vitamins such as pyridoxine, vitamin B6, folates, pantothenic acid, thiamin and riboflavin. These vitamins and minerals present in cassava are highly essential for the proper development, growth and functioning of the body systems, for example, dietary fiber is essential for losing weight, reducing unhealthy cholesterol level in the body and for preventing constipation.

The high amount of saponins in cassava helps to reduce unhealthy cholesterol levels in our bloodstream thereby helping us to stay healthy. Saponins also act as antioxidants thus helps to protect our cells from being damaged by toxic free radicals. The vitamin K in cassava helps to regulate normal blood clotting. It also helps to maintain healthy bone by assisting in the transportation of calcium all over the body. Calcium is vital for proper development of bones and strong teeth while B-complex group of vitamins are essential for converting our food into fuel thereby allowing us to stay energized all through the day.

The carbohydrates present in cassava is an excellent source of energy to us thereby enabling us to embark on strenuous exercises and activities. The carbohydrates present in cassava are usually converted into glucose, which is then converted into glycogen and then stored in the muscles for energy supply.

2. Culinary Purposes
Cassava can be used for preparing assorted dishes for example, it can be processed into cassava flour for making cassava bread, cassava cakes, cassava crackers, cassava biscuits, ice cream cones or cassava fufu (utara or utala). Cassava roots can equally be used for producing cassava starch, which can be used directly or converted into a group of gelatinized products. Cassava starch (tapioca starch) can also be converted into dextrins or glucose. Both the modified, unmodified starch and glucose are normally used in the food industry for producing custard, cooked starch food, custard, thickeners, fillers, binders and stabilizers. Through the hydrolysis process, various forms of sweeteners can be produced from cassava starch. Cassava starch is used as a natural monosodium glutamate for flavouring food. Cassava tubers can also be used for making pounded cassava (nri akpu), alibo, abacha (cassava flakes) and garri.

Garri, which is also known as gali, gari, lebu, eba, garry, or tapioca is a popular West African staple food processed from cassava roots. Garri can be soaked in cold water and consumed with milk, honey, sugar and groundnut. Garri can also be mixed/stirred in hot or warm water with a flat wooden baton to make solid paste or dough known as eba or teba, which is usually eaten together with soups such as melon (egusi) soup, onugbu (bitter leaf) soup, vegetable soup, ogbono soup etc.

Garri can also be chewed directly as snacks or it can be chewed together with palm kernel nuts flesh, tiger nuts, coconut, roasted cashew nuts or roasted groundnuts. Garri can be used for making foto gari, which is a Ghanaian dish prepared by combining moistened garri with stew, vegetables and even eggs. Soaked garri can be served together with cooked porridge beans or beans and sauce (ewa agoyin). Softened garri can be served together with frejon (coconut bean soup eaten mainly during Holy Week.

How to Process Garri from Cassava

~ To process garri, cassava roots are first peeled, washed and crushed in a cassava machine to produce raw cassava mash.
~ The mashed cassava is then poured in a permeable bag, tied properly and placed under a heavy weight for 3 to 4 days. The heavy weight helps to press and drain excess water out of the mashed cassava. During these days of pressing, the cassava also undergoes fermentation.
~ Afterwards, the slightly dry cassava mash is then sieved and fried in a large local cast iron frying pot (agbada). The cassava mash can be fried alone or mixed with a little bit of palm oil to form red garri.
The final produce ~ garri is then poured over a flat surface and allowed to cool down before storing in bags for future use.

How to Process Cassava flakes (Tapioca or Abacha) from Cassava

~ Wash the cassava, cut into small pieces and add in a pot covered with water.
~ Cook until the cassava softens a little bit but not too tender.
~ Bring down the cooked cassava from heat, drain water and allow to cool down.
~ Peel the cassava then cut into desired shapes and sizes. Alternatively, you can use a grater to grate the cooked cassava into desired shapes.
~ Add the (cut or grated) cassava into a bowl with cold water.
~ Cover the bowl and allow the cassava to stay overnight. This allows all the toxic substances in the cassava to be neutralized.
~ In the morning, wash the abacha or tapioca (cassava flakes) thoroughly then add a clean water.
~ Serve the abacha with coconut, roasted groundnut, palm kernel nuts or roasted cashew nuts.
~ You can also sun-dry the abacha and store in a bag for future use. But you need to soak the abacha in hot water to soften it each time you want to use it. This kind of abacha is used for making abacha salad, which can be enjoyed together with ugba and okporoko.

3. Other uses of Cassava Starch
Itaconic acid, acetic acid and citric acid are usually prepared from cassava starch, which can be used in food industry for making rubber products, synthetic resins and plastics. Cassava starch can also be used for producing chemicals such as ethanol. Starch can be used for producing paper, animal feed, textiles, and biodegradable plastics.

4. Dermatological Care
Cassava peels can be used as a skin exfoliator for removing dead skin cells from the surface of the skin so as to boost its appearance. The cassava peels can be mashed to form a smooth paste, which is then applied on the skin and allowed to stand for few minutes before washing off with cold water. This process improves the skin look and appearance. Cassava roots and leaves can be used for preparing herbal concoction that can be applied on the hair to facilitate hair growth and prevent hair fall.

5. Weight Management
The high dietary fiber contents in cassava makes it suitable for weight management regime. Eating a reasonable portion of cassava product helps you to remain full for a long duration instead of feeling hungry and pinching every food that crosses your path.

6. Livestock Fodder
Cassava peels and leaves are usually dried under sunlight and then fed to livestock animals such as cattle, sheep, goats, lamb.

7. Healing of Wounds
Studies reveal that cassava leaves are suitable for treating injuries and healing wounds. Cassava leaves can be crushed together with aloe vera gel to form a paste, which can be applied topically on a wound for quick healing. Cassava starch water can also be applied on wounds to facilitate faster healing.

8. Fever Treatment
Cassava leaves can be decocted together with the stems for treating fever.

remarkable benefits of cassava Cassava Plantation

This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnosis and treatments. Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.

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