A perennial shrub of the euphorbiaceae family, cassava (manihot esculenta) is a root vegetable that comes from Central and South America. Although it is widely cultivated in Africa, cassava is not endemic to this continent. The tubers, 20 to 80cm in length, look like elongated potatoes. The compact flesh is very white and its consistency is reminiscent of wood.
Cassava is grown in tropical climates. It is planted at the start of the rainy season, and harvesting takes place towards the end of the dry season. Cassava needs good sun exposure, frequent watering and soil rich in mineral elements. The cuttings are composed of stems of cassava wood about 15cm, which are planted obliquely before covering them. There should be about 50cm between each stem to allow enough space for the development of the tubers. It is important to keep an eye on the plantation, as unharvested tubers can continue to grow for a long time, invading space and choking the soil.
Cassava is susceptible to rots, a kind of fungus that suffocates the plant and causes the foot to rot. The most widespread disease remains the African mosaic. As for insects, bugs, mealybugs and weevils like cassava leaves.
Use of cassava
The tubers and leaves of the sweet cassava like bitter cassava are eaten in many South American and African recipes. It is also made into flour, and alcoholic beverages by fermentation of the plant. Cassava is particularly rich in starch and is also used as a medicinal plant.