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card
136

cassava plant

OLogy Series
plant
card
136

cassava plant

OLogy Series
plant

Cassava is one tough plant because it can grow in poor and infertile soil in most tropical environments. Cassava is an important food resource for people all over the world. This bushy plant has roots that weigh as much as 30 pounds! These heavy roots are sometimes mashed into yummy pancakes or sliced and fried like potato chips. Cassava leaves are high in vitamins and minerals.

Digging Up Cassava's Past
For thousands of years, the cassava plant grew only in South America. It took hundreds of years for it to reach tropical regions on other continents. Many plants like cassava were introduced to other areas in the world by explorers who traveled on ships. When did this plant's worldwide travels begin? During the 1500s, Europeans imported cassava from South America to the West Indies. Then the Portuguese brought the cassava plant to the west coast of Africa. By the late 1700s, cassava made its way to eastern Africa and India. Because of its ability to grow in bad soil where other plants normally wouldn't grow, cassava became an important food resource for millions of people all over the world.

Cassava contains a natural poison called:

stink juice

cyanide

arsenic

Are you right?

Correct!

Before cassava can be eaten, it must be washed in clean water and carefully handled. Otherwise, cassava could be a deadly meal.

Which of the following desserts is frequently made from cassava?

vanilla ice cream

tapioca pudding

chocolate chip cookies

Are you right?

Correct!

Tapioca pudding is made using starch from the root of the cassava plant. This starch is sometimes used as a thickener for soup or as the sticky stuff found on the back of postage stamps.

Cassava can be made into French fries, too!

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

There are two kinds of cassava plants -- a poisonous and non-poisonous kind. The non-poisonous cassava can be sliced into strips and fried into yummy French fries!

Scientific name: Manihot esculenta
Size: can grow to be 8 feet tall
Habitat: native to South America but also cultivated throughout Africa
Characteristics: bushy plant with greenish- yellow flowers; has a poison that is destroyed when prepared into food
Significance: main food staple for people of South America and Africa; starchy root is used to make tapioca, juices, and bread

Image credits: courtesy of Roger Harris, Jungle Photos.