According to historians, cassava comes from South America. It most likely originated in Brazil and Paraguay. Historians also believed that it was first cultivated about 10,000 years ago and would migrate throughout Central America and the Caribbean long before Columbus and other colonials arrived in the New World. After the Europeans arrived they continued cultivating it. Cassava — also called manioc — was used aboard slave ships as rations for the slaves. This was probably how cassava made its way to Africa. The root would reach Asia via the Spanish occupation of the Philippines.
Cassava has long been used to make cassava flour. It is important to note that cassava flour differs from tapioca though both are sourced from the same plant. Tapioca starch is the refined starch from the cassava root, whereas cassava flour is made with the whole starchy root. To make the flour, the cassava root is dried and ground.
Because the roots and leaves of the cassava plant contain high levels of cyanide, special steps must be taken to prepare it for consumption. While there are many varieties of cassava, they are usually just categorized as either bitter or sweet. The sweet variety has less cyanide than the bitter variety.
In the mythology of the Native South and Central Americans, cassava was often portrayed as saving people from starvation. The plant is arguably the food with the highest starch content. It has double the starch of the potato and more than 10 times the starch of corn.
Today, Cassava is an important crop grown in many tropical countries. It is considered one of the most important food crops worldwide.
Cassava flour flavor profile
Cassava flour has very little taste, much like refined wheat flour. The taste makes it a great substitute for the equally mild-flavored refined wheat flour.
Health benefits of cassava flour
While the cassava root does have some nutrients, the flour made from it does not have much of any single one. Unfortunately, the processing that it must undergo removes most of the nutritional value. It does have small amounts of a few important ones.
- Carbohydrates: As a source of starch, cassava flour is a great way to get energy quickly. Because of its high caloric value, it is best to limit your cassava flour intake if you are trying to lose weight.
- Fiber: Its dietary fiber content is what separates cassava flour from tapioca flour. Because it contains fiber, cassava flour functions better in many recipes for baked goods and is better for you.
- Minerals: Cassava flour has modest amounts of calcium and iron.
Cassava flour does have some characteristics that make it effective for treating conditions like:
- Gluten intolerance: Cassava flour is best known as a gluten-free flour. As such, it makes a great substitute for wheat flour in that it can be used by people with celiac disease and other similar conditions.
- Unwanted weight loss: The high caloric value of cassava flour makes it a great option for people who are losing weight as a result of illnesses that affect their appetite. A relatively small amount can add a significant number of calories to their diet.
Cassava flour is traditionally used to make tortillas and bread. The native Americans made a flat bread with it and used it to make porridge. It has a reputation for giving a fluffier result than other gluten-free flours when used in cookies and cakes. It is much more similar to wheat flour than other gluten-free flours.