Cassava Plants or Yuca Root
Cassava Plants on Our Farm

The cassava manioc or yuca root, also known as the tapioca plant, are staple crops for many tropical regions around the world. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of how to plant, harvest, and care for this versatile crop.

In addition to detailed instructions on the planting process, we will also discuss ways to ensure the cassava or yuca root get the care they need to reach their full potential. With these tips, you will be able to successfully harvest a bountiful supply of yuca from your own garden. Let’s get started!

Cassava (Manihot esculenta) or yuca root is native to South America and the Caribbean, where it has been cultivated by indigenous peoples for centuries. Now cassava crop is cultivated across the most tropical region of the world such as Brazil, Thailand, Nigeria and many other countries.

Yuca Root

It can be described as a woody shrub characterized by long, thin stems and large yellowish-brown roots that can range from a few inches to several feet in length. It is similar to other tuber crops like yams or sweet potatoes.

Cassava has become an increasingly popular crop around the world, due to its many uses and nutritional benefits. It is highly nutritious, containing high levels of carbohydrates, protein, fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. It can be boiled, steamed or baked into a variety of dishes including breads, pancakes and fritters.

Climate

Cassava is known for its long growing season (up to 18 months) and high tolerance for drought and poor soil conditions, making it an ideal crop for areas where other crops may struggle.

THE BASICS

Common NameCassava or Yuca root
Botanical NameManihot esculenta
ClimateTropical or sub-tropical, ideally zones 8-11. Needs 8 months of consistent heat to grow well.
Best Time to PlantEarly spring or late summer months
LightPrefers full sun – needs at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day
SoilCassava likes well-draining, loamy, and slightly acidic with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5
Pests and DiseasesCassava Brown Streak Disease, the Cassava Mosaic Virus, Cassava Mealy Bugs, and Cassava Green Mite
LikesWarm climate and moist, well-drained soil
DislikesProlonged drought or waterlogged conditions

Propagating

Where to Plant Yuca

Yuca is typically planted in the field on mounds or ridges, allowing any excess water to quickly drain away. It also can be planted in raised beds or indoors as a potted plant. 

How to Grow From Seeds

Cassava can be planted by directly seeding into prepared beds or containers, or by cuttings. It can also be grown in containers, allowing it to be harvested year-round. This is a great option for those who don’t have the space or soil conditions needed for an outdoor crop. 

How to Grow From Cuttings

Planting cassava from cuttings is the most common way of propagating. Take cuttings from mature plants that have fully grown tubers and are at least eight to 10 months old. Take cuttings that come from the bottom and middle parts of the stem. Make cuttings that are 20 to 30 cm (8 to 12 inches) long, at least 2 cm (3/4 of an inch) thick, and have five to seven nodes.

If you have to wait a few weeks or months for the right time to plant, stems can be stored in a protected, shady place. Cut the stems to make cuttings only at the time of planting. 

Planting in the field is very simple. 

  1. Push the cassava into the soil at the end of the stem that was closer to the ground
  2. Plant the cuttings slightly slanted with 2 or 3 nods below the ground and 2-4 nods above the ground
  3. Water the newly planted cuttings

After planting, it is important to keep weeds away and ensure that there is adequate watering, as this can affect the growth of the cassava manioc. 

Caring

Preparing the Soil

For cassava, cultivation land is usually cleared and the soil is then worked and pre-plant fertilizer may be applied but not necessary. Cassava requires good soil drainage to prevent water-logging of the roots. If planting in clay soils, adding organic matter such as compost or manure helps with drainage and aeration of the soil. 

Soil and Water Requirements

Cassava can be planted year-round in tropical climates if provided with enough water in dry season. But the best time to plant cassava is at the beginning of the rainy season when soil temperatures are consistently above 70°F. 

It also prefers well-drained, sandy loam soils with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5, but it can thrive in poor soils too. It is important to ensure that the soil is not too wet or dry as this can affect the growth of the crop. Certainly, it can not tolerate flooding or freezing conditions. It is more productive if planted in full sun.

Pests and Diseases

The cyanide-producing compounds of cassava make it resistant to pests and diseases. Still, it is susceptible to several devastating diseases such as Cassava Brown Streak Disease, the Cassava Mosaic Virus, Cassava Mealy Bugs, and Cassava Green Mite.

To avoid pesticides it is best to make sure to plant early at the onset of rains, to plant resistant and tolerant varieties, and to make sure you use crop rotation, especially when dealing with legumes.

Make a habit of routine checks throughout your garden, uprooting and burying or burning diseased plants.      

Harvesting and Storing

Cassava almost ready to be harvested
Cassava, Almost Ready to be Harvested

Harvesting

Cassava is typically ready to harvest after 9-18 months, depending on the variety and growing conditions. Yes, it takes at least 8 months to produce a crop. Cassava manioc can be harvested when the roots are at least 8 inches long, though some varieties may require up to 12 inches of root length before they are ready. 

It can be harvested by carefully digging around the base of the plant and gently pulling up on the stem, or it can be pulled straight out of the ground with a strong tug. It is important to take care not to damage any of the roots, as this can affect the health of the cassava plant. If you are using it immediately, use a garden hose to rinse the cassava and peel the skin, not only the brown papery brown skin but the thick white skin as well. 

Storing Cassava or Yuca Root

Once harvested, Cassava should be stored in a cool, dry place for a few days until it is ready to be used. Freshly harvested cassava should be cooked and consumed or processed in the next 24 to 48 hours after harvesting. It will be much more tender, much sweeter, and much tastier overall.

It’s important to make sure that cassava does not come into contact with water or moisture as this can cause it to rot. It should also be used within a few days of harvesting, as the nutritional value decreases over time. You can see that they start to spoil when the white part inside develops some grey strings. That’s why if you buy it from a grocery store, you will notice that cassava roots are usually covered in wax to extend their shelf life. 

In the Kitchen


Disclaimer! Only eat cooked cassava.

Do not eat cassava raw, as it contains levels of cyanide. Fermentation, cooking, soaking or other processing methods are necessary in order to eliminate most of the cyanide. For example after peeling yuca, soaking for 18 to 24 hours in water can reduce the level of cyanide in half. Short soaking will not suffice. Boiled water after cooking should not be used for further cooking, but discarded.  Bitter cassava has a higher level of cyanide so it is used for making flour, tapioca, or for feeding animals. Sweet varieties have smaller tubers than bitter ones and less toxicity therefore simply cooking eliminates most of the toxicity.

Cooking With Yuca Root

Yuca is a very versatile root vegetable, with its buttery taste, soft creamy texture and mild flavour. There are many ways to cook it. People around the world are making side dishes, loaves of bread, savoury cakes, fries, tapioca dishes, flatbreads, chips, fritters and deserts. It is also used in soups and stews. 

When cooking cassava, treat it in a very similar way to potatoes, sweet potatoes, and other tuber-like root vegetables.  

Making Yuca Fries
Making Yuca Fries

Peeling cassava is easy. You need a big strong knife with a pointy tip. To make mashed cassava, the tubers should be peeled, rinsed and cut into cubes. Then the root cubes can be boiled in salted water until soft. It usually takes between 15 to 20 minutes for cassava to cook. Once it is cooked, mash the boiled cassava root with a fork or potato masher, add butter and seasonings and enjoy! 

It can also be cut after boiling into french fry-like shapes and baked in the oven to make cassava fries. Or they can be fried in oil. Use your imagination and cooking skills to make a dip for these delicious fries. 

Boiled Cassava
Boiled Cassava

Nutritional Benefits

First of all, CASSAVA IS GLUTEN-FREE!

Cassava is a good source of vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and antioxidants.

To name just a few, thiamin, vitamin C, folic acid, manganese and potassium are at the top.

Vitamin C and B-vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and folate are important nutrients for your heart health, and maintaining a strong immune system. 

Choline is helpful for nerve and brain functions, and keeping your DNA and cells healthy.

Potassium helps your heart, kidney, and muscles. It also regulate blood pressure.

Antioxidants including saponin and beta-carotene fight free radicals. Aside from antioxidants, manganese also helps with repairing the swelling and painful joints from rheumatoid arthritic symptoms. 

The resistant starch in yuca root helps your digestive system in many ways, but feeding the good bacteria in your gut is the most important. Also the resistant starch helps in reducing insulin response. As an idea of just how low yuca’s glycemic index is, think of boiled potatoes with a glycemic index of 78. Yuca ranks at just 46. How cool is that! 

In Conclusion

Cassava or yuca root is an incredibly versatile and nutritious plant that can be used in a variety of dishes. Not only does it provide essential nutrients, but its hardy nature makes it easy to grow and maintain for gardeners of all levels. Whether you’re looking for tapioca flour, starch, chips or even as a side dish – cassava has something to offer everyone!

With the right knowledge on how to properly plant, harvest and care for this amazing vegetable, anyone can have success growing cassava in their own backyard. So get out there and give cassava gardening a try today!

FAQ

How long does it take for cassava to produce a crop?

It takes approximately 8 months for cassava to produce mature roots, so make sure you plan ahead! Some varieties take a bit longer, even up to 18 months. Yuca is definitely not an eat-quick scheme by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s definitely worth the wait.

Is it safe to eat cassava or yuca root?

Absolutely! People around the world enjoy a diet that includes yuca. In some places, yuca is relied on as one of the main sources of starch. As long as it is properly cooked, it’s perfectly safe and nutritious.

Does cassava or yuca root need a lot of water?

Cassava does not require a significant amount of water but prefers consistently moist soil. Too much water can cause the roots to rot, while too little will stunt growth. Make sure you maintain even moisture levels throughout the growing season.

About US

We are a family of avid gardeners, lost and then found again in the majestic landscape of the tropics. Each day, we try to share bits and pieces of our journey, so that you too, can possess the confidence and ease to grow your own food in a tropical climate.

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