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Getting to the root of Cassava’s goodness

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The root of Chistmas: Cassava is traditionally grated and eaten as a pie at Christmas in Bermuda. Pictured, farmer Brian (Gabre) Swan harvests a local crop.

We tend to only eat it at Christmas time but cassava is a good root crop to eat for energy, any time of the year. And you can get it fresh from local farmers. Most of us buy the packaged stuff but it’s been sitting around frozen for who knows how long. Older Bermudians have often told me our local cassava has a better taste than the imported ones. They claim it’s sweeter.Local farmer Brian Swan always harvests a crop of cassava in time for Christmas and for those of us who find it too labour intensive to prepare our pies from cassava root, Mr Swan also offers bags of the root grated.And it’s not just the root that’s edible. In many parts of the world, young leaves of the plant are cooked and eaten. Check with your local farmer and you may be able to secure some leaves (they are a good source of protein) and try a new side dish for your Christmas dinner this year.CassavaScientific name: Manihot esculentaRelated to: PoinsettiaGrown: in BermudaVitamin content: A very good source of vitamin C. A good source of vitamin B1 (thiamin) and B9 (folate). Cassava root also contains a small amount of B vitamins B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin) and B6 (pyridoxine). It also contains very small amounts of vitamins A, E & K and choline.Mineral content: A good source of manganese and potassium. It also contains Magnesium, copper, phosphorus and zinc and very small amounts of calcium, iron and selenium.Dietary Fibre: A very good source of dietary fibre with about four grams in one cup.Omega 3 fatty acids: About 35 mg in one cup.Omega 6 fatty acids: About 66 mg in one cup.Protein: There is little to no protein in cassava root.Good for: Cassava root is a mostly starch with very little vitamins and minerals, However one cup provides about 40 percent of the US recommended daily allowance for manganese and 71 percent of vitamin C.Manganese is one of the trace elements necessary for strong bones. Low levels of the mineral can lead to bones being malformed. While research has not shown that low levels lead to bone loss osteoporosis, it has been shown to help prevention of bone loss in menopausal women.Manganese is also important in the formation of connective tissue, blood clotting factors and sex hormones. Low levels have been associated with infertility, muscle weakness and seizures.As a very good source of vitamin C cassava can help your body repair tissues. It is an important component of proteins used to make skin, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels. Vitamin C is also used to heal wounds and form scar tissue and to repair bones, skin and teeth.It’s also an antioxidant and helps block the havoc free radicals can have on the body. Free radicals build up. Their accumulation is the main cause of ageing and is also linked to cancer, heart disease and conditions like arthritis.Low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, cassava root is a good choice for heart health.Other interesting uses of cassava: In the manufacture of paper, high fructose corn syrup, adhesives and alcohol.Roots can be peeled, grated and washed with water to extract the starch which can be used to make breads, crackers, pasta and pearls of tapioca. Unpeeled roots can be grated and dried for use as animal feed. The leaves can be added to provide protein to the feed.

Edible leaves: The leaves of the cassava plant, despite being milky, are edible and a good source of protein.
Cassava in the garden: Cassava is a root vegetable which grows well in Bermuda but many do not know that it`s leaves are edible when cooked.
A cassava leaves recipe

Cassava Leaves recipe from Sierra Leone West Africa

Enough cassava leaves to fill a large pot, stems removed

Palm oil, vegetable oil, coconut oil and palm kernel oil

2lbs of meat beef, chicken or oxtail is good

2 medium sized onions

2 red bell peppers

3 bullion cubes of the meat you are using

2 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter

Puree cassava leaves with bell peppers, onions. Boil the mixture in a pint of water for about 12 minutes. In a separate pot, boil meat with bullion cubes until tender. Then add the boiled meat mixture to the cassava leaf mixture add half a pint of palm oil, two tablespoons of creamy peanut butter and let simmer for about 40 minutes until well blended. Stir to keep from burning.