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Cassava Tuber

manioc leaves, stems, and tubers

Native to the American tropics, the cassava plant (Manihot esculenta, also called manioc, yuca, and yucca) was introduced to Africa by Europeans in the sixteenth century. It was used as a food source for enslaved Africans awaiting transport to slave markets. Due to its ease of cultivation -- Cassava does well in poor soil, resists drought and insect damage, is easily propagated, and has no specific planting or harvesting season -- it spread throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Today cassava is grown in tropical regions all over the world for its edible tuberous roots which are made into various sorts of Fufu and Fufu-like foods, as well as flour, and bread, and animal feed. It is best known in North America and Europe in the form of tapioca.

Most varieties of manioc contain a poisonous cyanide compound. The sweet varieties are thought to contain less of the poison than the bitter. Baton de Manioc is usually made from the tubers of the bitter manioc, but they are carefully soaked and cooked to remove the poison. The sweet manioc tubers are prepared as potatoes are prepared in Europe and America: baked, boiled, dried, fried, roasted, stewed, etc.


Richard Francis Burton

The Wasawahili have some fifty different ways of preparing it

In the late 1850's Richard Francis Burton explored Zanzibar and the nearby Eastern Africa mainland. In this excerpt from Zanzibar; City, Island, and Coast (London: Tinsley Brothers, 18, Catherine St. Strand; 1872) he describes the role of cassava tubers in the Swahili diet:

The Wasawahili have some fifty different ways of preparing it [cassava tuber]. Boiled, and served up with a sauce of ground-nut cream, it is palatable : in every bazar sun-dried lengths, split by the women, and looking like pipe-clay and flour, are to be brought : a paste, kneaded with cold water, is cooked to scones over the fire : others wrap the raw root in plantain-leaf and bake it, like greeshen, in hot ashes. The poorer classes pound, boil, stir, and swallow the thick gruel till their stomachs stand out in bold relief. Full of gluten, this food is by no means nutritious ; and after a short time produces that inordinate craving for meat, even the meat of white ants, which has a name in most African languages.
(Chapter 5 Geographical and Physiological: Section 5: Notes on the Flora of Zanzibar)


Other African gastronomical excerpts

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African Proverbs

Kokonte taoo hulu. (Ga or Accra) : Dried cassava wants sun. N.B. -- Otherwise it spoils
  (from: Wit and Wisdom from West Africa, Richard Francis Burton)

Ogegge ko li ewa sa li o fi ara we isu. (Yoruba) : The (poisonous) cassada [cassava] has no good qualities ; in vain does it appear like the yam. N.B. -- Said of a hypocrite, -- the daw that wears another's feathers. (ibid)

Other African proverbs

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