7 Awesome Facts about Cassava that Everybody Must Know

In this blog we’ll show you the characteristics of cassava, its main types, properties, history, main exporters and importers, how it is cultivated and some products made from this tuber. Don’t miss it!  

What is cassava and what are its characteristics?     

Scientific nameManihot esculenta
Common nameCasabe, cassava or yuca.
Place of originAmazon Basin, South America
HabitatTropical and subtropical regions. Deep and well-drained soils.
DistributionAsia, Africa, and South America

Characteristics of the cassava plant 

The yucca plant comes from the Euphorbiaceae family. The plant is widely cultivated because of its starchy roots. The processed starch is converted into the so-called tapioca. It originally comes from South America and was already used by the natives for food. It is now cultivated in many parts of the tropics and subtropics throughout the world. Other species of the genus Manihot are also used as starch suppliers.  

Cassava plants are shrubs that grow to a height from 1.5 m to 5 m. All parts of the plant contain a milky sap. Seedlings initially form a root that develops vertically downward. The fibrous lateral roots thicken and form large spindle-shaped roots. Depending on the variety, the stems show different growth patterns: strongly branching from the base or sparsely branched.


Leaves may be divided into 3 to 9 parts; each is 8 to 18 cm long and 1.5 to 4 cm wide. The leaves have a type of stem that measures from 6 to 35 cm long. At the base of these stems are two small triangular or pointed stems. These are 5 to 7 mm long, whole, or divided into a few pointed segments. The leaves fall off during dry periods.


The flowers are gathered in clusters and are 5 to 8 cm long, which can be found in the axils of the leaves. It has male and female flowers, both on one plant. The smaller, short, slender-stemmed male flowers consist of five yellowish-to-whitish to reddish-to-purple petals that are fused to half their length or less. They are hairy inside. The longer, curvilinear, thicker-stemmed female flowers also have five slightly fused petals, which are 1 cm long and larger than those of the male flowers.

Description of the yucca fruit 

The fruit of the plant is oval or rounded, 1.5 to 1.8 cm long, and 1.0 to 1.5 cm wide. It has 3 smooth, slightly triangular seeds, about 1 cm in size, dark brown painted to gray.

Types of cassava 

Cassava varieties are divided into sweet and bitter. Sweet varieties contain less than 100 milligrams of hydrocyanic acid per kilogram. For these varieties to be non-toxic, all you have to do is boil, fry, or cook them.

Bitter varieties, on the other hand, contain more than 100 milligrams of hydrocyanic acid per kilogram and require more complex processing. For this, the tubers are finely ground and the different ingredients come together. The hydrocyanic acid is broken down in the process. It is then (partially) removed by the pressed juice or evaporated, e.g. during drying or steaming.

In general, there are 20 types or varieties of cassava, which are:

  1. Gitamisi
  2. Rutanihisha
  3. Gacyacyali
  4. Gahene
  5. Bukalasa
  6. Iminayiro
  7. Mavuta
  8. Nyirakarasi
  9. Kiryumukwe
  10. Maguruyinkware
  11. Nyiramabuye
  12. Imisurupiyo
  13. Ndamirabana
  14. Cyizere
  15. Mbakunga mist
  16. Mbagaru mbise
  17. Rwizihiza
  18. Seruruseke
  19. Mavoka
  20. Garukunsubire

Today we will focus on the first 6 because they are the main ones.


Susceptible to CMD and green mites. It has a dark brown stem, small greenish red stems, dark green leaf color, dark brown outer root color, and white root pulp. It has a bitter taste.


Susceptible to CMD and green mites. It has a silver-colored stem, small greenish-red stems, dark green leaves, cream-colored root, and white root pulp. It has a bitter taste.


Susceptible to CMD and green mites. It has a silver-colored stem, small purple stems, dark green leaves, dark brown outer root, and white root pulp. It has a sweet taste.


Susceptible to CMD and green mites. It has a silver-colored stem, small purple stems, purple-green leaves, cream-colored outer root, and white root pulp. It has a bitter taste.


Susceptible to CMD and green mites. It has a silvery stem color, small greenish-red stems, dark green leaves, light brown outer root color, and white root pulp. It has a taste that is a sweet and sour mixture.


Susceptible to CMD and green mites. It has a dark brown stem, small yellowish-green stems, dark green leaves, light brown outer root color, and white root pulp. It has a flavor that is a sweet and sour mixture.

Properties and benefits of cassava 

Nutritional profile of cassava 

Take a look at the nutritional table of cassava per 100g, taken from Super Foods.

Water59.6 g
Energy168 kcal
Fat0.28 g
Protein1.36 g
Sodium14 mg
Carbohydrates38.05 g
Fiber1.8 g
Potassium271 mg
Phosphorus27 mg
Magnesium21 mg
Iron0.27 mg
Calcium16 mg
Vitamin C20.6 mg
Vitamin A25 UI
Vitamin E0.19 mg
Vitamin B10.087 mg
Vitamin B20.0048mg
Niacin0.854 mg
Folate27 mg

5 properties of cassava that you should take advantage of 

It contains all the energy necessary for daily activities 

Every 100 grams of cassava contains 38 grams of carbohydrates and yields about 160 kcal. This makes cassava an excellent source of energy for the human body, especially for those who experience strenuous physical activity. After eating, the carbohydrates in cassava are broken down into glucose, serving as a source of energy for the body’s cells. Glucose is later stored and converted into glycogen in the muscle as an energy reserve. On the other hand, cassava leaves also contain large amounts of carbohydrates, as do beans and soybeans.

It protects and repairs body tissues 

This tuber contains protein, which plays an important role in the protection and repair of body tissues. The leaves contain different types of proteins such as lysine, isoleucine, leucine, valine, and many arginines that are not commonly found in green leafy plants. Cassava contains almost all amino acids compared to eggs and soybeans as a great source of protein.

It prevents cancer 

Cassava contains some antioxidants that prevent free radicals from entering the body and promoting cancer. Powerful antioxidants include vitamin C, beta-carotene, and saponins. These antioxidants help the body protect cells from free radical damage and repair damaged DNA. A study by scientists at Tianjin University of Phytotherapy found that saponins in plants can prevent cancer. This study was published in October 2010.

It prevents anemia and keeps oxygen circulating in the blood 

The iron mineral in yucca helps the body produce two important proteins, namely hemoglobin (a protein molecule found in red blood cells) and myoglobin (a protein found in the heart and muscles); both serve to transport oxygen to all body tissue. Frequent consumption of yucca leaves and/or the root can help protect the body from iron deficiency and promote the red blood cell renewal process.

It reduces stress and anxiety 

The vitamins and minerals in cassava roots and leaves are helpful in relieving stress and anxiety while promoting a good mood. Magnesium in cassava is known to help reduce stress and plays a role in calming the nervous system.

History and origin of cassava 

Cassava is known by several names. The term manioc comes from the Tupi-Guarani language word mandioca, which was originally widespread on the Brazilian Atlantic coast. Today, in Paraguay, the Guarani word mandi’o is used. In Brazil, cassava is now known as manioc, derived from the woman’s name Mandi-Oca (or mãdi’og) – according to a Brazilian native legend, the cassava plant is said to have sprouted from her body. The name yucca comes from the Arawak word Kasabi and the Carib language.

South American natives valued cassava as their most important food, of which they bred numerous varieties.

Cassava is mentioned in many South American myths. In the tales of the Shuar, an indigenous people of the Ecuadorian Amazon, the mistress of food, Núnkui, ensures that crops prosper. To invoke this goddess of the earth, women in the field sing songs to her or go to the field at night to make contact with the nocturnal Núnkui. No one else is allowed to enter the field at night because then the goddess gets angry and the cassava sucks the blood of the people. Women, in turn, used this anger to protect their home, which was traditionally surrounded by fields. To steal, a thief would have to cross these fields at night.

The indigenous peoples of central Brazil saw a large shelf in the constellation Orion on which cassava is dried. Cassava flour played an important role in the expansion of the Portuguese in Brazil. Long expeditions inland were only possible with the help of long-lasting flour.

Cassava made its way from South America through Portugal to Africa, where the starch-rich tuber is now the staple food of 500 million Africans. In the 1970s, a mealybug introduced from South America threatened Africa’s cassava reserves. With the help of wasps as natural predators, a research team led by Swiss scientist Rudolf Herren was able to successfully combat the pests and thus prevent famine catastrophes.

Global cassava industry 

Know the main exporters and importers of cassava in the world.   

Top cassava exporters in the world in 2020 

In the following chart, you can see the top 10 exporting countries of cassava in 2020 according to FAO. Moreover, it provides also information on the export monetary volume of these countries, specifically in U.S. dollars in 2020. Let’s see what they are:

Top cassava importers in the world in 2020 

See the following chart to find out the top importers of cassava according to FAO for the year 2020. On the other hand, it also provides information on the monetary volume of imports from these countries, specifically in US dollars in the year 2020. Let’s see what they are:

How is cassava cultivated? 

A number of requirements must be considered in order to grow this tuber. Below, we show you what they are:   


Cassava plants prefer sandy or sandy loam soils. They grow best in slightly acidic substrates but tolerate a wide pH range of 4 to 8. Cassava does well in tropical soils that are high in aluminum and manganese and low in nutrients. It survives dry periods well by shedding its leaves, and, after rainfall, resprouts quickly.


Cassava prefers a warm, humid climate and has little resistance to low temperatures: growth stagnates at as low as 10 °C (50 °F). On the other hand, it has a well-developed resistance to drought.

Method of planting cassava: propagation  

To propagate cassava plants, 20-25 cm long stem cuttings, which should have at least four distinct eyes, are used as seedlings. This cutting material is obtained from cassava plants that are at least 8 months old.

  • The stem sections harvested, originally 1 m long, can be stored in bundles in shady places for a maximum of 6 months until the date of planting without the shoots growing prematurely.
  • Before storing or planting, it is recommended to treat the seedlings with pesticides (insecticides, fungicides).
  • This traditional method of propagation by cuttings makes it possible to plant 3 to 6 hectares of cassava with the stem material from a 1-ha cassava field. However, in addition to this original method, there are other methods that promise a higher propagation rate.

Propagation in containers 

These methods involve the creation of an intercrop in plastic bags or containers. For example, the sprouts can be grown as cuttings in propagation containers, which can be cut and propagated on their own once they have formed roots. In this way, each parent cutting can produce seedlings for 6 to 8 cassava plants. Of course, the highest propagation rate is achieved through meristem crops, which are defined as the areas where mitosis occurs.

When to plant cassava? 

The optimum time for planting is at the beginning of the rainy season since young cassava plants need sufficient moisture in the first months. Cuttings are inserted vertically, diagonally into the soil, or buried horizontally a few centimeters into the soil. The crop is mainly grown on level ground, but using ridges and hills is also common. After about 10 days, the cuttings sprout above ground. After 7 to 8 months, the “early” varieties produce the first harvestable cassava tubers. However, most varieties require 10 to 14 months before the tubers can be harvested.

Crop rotation 

In crop rotation, cassava is often used as a final stage. Two points predestine it to the role of harvest crop: on the one hand, it produces still yields on soil that has been depleted by previous crops due to its undemanding nature, on the other hand, the flexible harvest time of cassava can be better utilized, as the soil cannot be continued with crops of fixed harvest times.

Cassava is grown together with other crops. Here, trees or shrubs that don’t yield any income in the first few years, such as cocoa or coffee, are used; cassava can be planted in the cultivated area until such crops bear fruit.

Harvesting cassava 

Cassava harvesting is not tied to any specific time of the year. However, the best time to harvest is when the leaves turn yellow and fall off, which is when the starch content of the tubers is especially high. If there is no harvest, the plants will sprout again. Therefore, cassava tubers can remain in the soil for several years before being harvested. During this time, the weight and starch content of the tubers increases, but also lignification increases. For this reason, cassava tubers should be harvested after 4 years at the latest.

These properties of cassava allow flexible harvesting practices, which can be based on current needs. Depending on soil conditions and technology availability, harvesting is done by uprooting the tubers by hand, by plowing or by using lifting platforms. Since cassava plant deterioration begins 48 hours after harvest, the tubers are consumed immediately after harvest or processed into non-perishable products. On average worldwide, 10 t of cassava tubers are harvested per hectare of cultivated area. Under trial conditions, yields of up to 75 t per hectare could be achieved.

Cassava post-harvest 

Maintaining and storing cassava is very difficult: it starts to rot after only 2 or 3 days and the content of starch decreases. The latter also occurs if the tubers are left on the ground for too long. They must therefore be harvested immediately, be further processed, or be adequately cooled or covered with wax for preservation.

Uses and products made from cassava 

Cassava is widely used for food production, so it is common for people to consume it in this form. However, there are other types of industrial products made from this tuber, so it can be said that it is used fresh or processed. Some products made from cassava have also been launched to the market, such as the ones we show you next.

Industrial products made from cassava 

Cassava flour 

This product is made by peeling the cassava tubers to grate them and then soaking them; this is how the hydrocyanic acid they contain is decomposed. The dough is then pressed and roasted. The dough that results from pressing is used for cassava flour. Similarly to wheat flour, this flour can be used to bake cakes, bread, or other pastries. It serves as a substitute for many people who are allergic to wheat or gluten.

Tapioca starch 

Tapioca or tapioca starch is also made from dried cassava root and is a by-product of the production of cassava flour. Like potato or cornstarch, you can also use tapioca for cooking. The starch is commercially available in the form of dry fine pellets or flakes.

Cassava bread 

Cassava bread (called kwánga in Lingála ) is a traditional side dish in the Caribbean and Congo Basin based on cassava. In the Congo, the root tubers, which contain pure hydrocyanic acid, are peeled, ground, and soaked for a few days. The cassava is then fermented, roasted and wrapped in a banana leaf to be cooked. The resulting white cassava bread has an elastic consistency and no flavor of its own. However, it is nutritious and is commonly eaten as an accompaniment to a variety of sauces or stews.

In the Caribbean, cassava flour is processed into wafer-like slices that are either hard dry and eaten as a garnish [2]or are a bit softer and filled with coconut jam. Today, however, they are also filled with spicy ingredients such as fish or seafood; the softer variant is called kassav.


Doughnuts are small pieces of sweet or salty yeast dough, with sweet or salty filling, that is fried in hot fat (lard, clarified butter, or vegetable oil). A doughnut called “krapfo” was known in Vienna as early as the 9th century. In the cities, especially in Vienna, round and spherical pastries were commercially manufactured in public lard-baking plants as early as the Middle Ages.

Cassava paste 

Fermented cassava paste, also known as placali, is prepared from cassava paste (starch obtained by grinding with a mortar), diluted in a little water to the consistency of a thick porridge, filtered, allowed to stand, the water removed and gradually thickened over low heat. cooking to a clear paste, softer than foutou, and to be kept in a cool place for a day or two.

Below, you will find a list of other products that are also made from cassava:

  • Fried cassava
  • Bono bread
  • Cheese bread
  • Frozen cassava
  • Concentrates for animals
  • Cassava cassava
  • Cassava arepas
  • 3 meat buns
  • Cassava cake
  • Cassava cake
  • Cassava milkshake
  • Cassava flan


Cassava is such an important food given its wide consumption due to its many benefits, including the fact that it gives you a lot of energy and its variety of utilities. We hope this blog has helped you learn more about cassava and that you don’t hesitate to consume it in all its presentations to enjoy its benefits firsthand.