5 LBS OF FRESH YUCA
The large tapered Yuca roots are similar in size and shape to a sweet potato and can be anywhere from one to several pounds in size and can grow up to 4 feet below the ground. The starchy flesh of the Yuca root is a light white or cream color with a grainy texture similar to potatoes. The meaty flesh is mild, sweet flavor that has a somewhat nutty taste.
Yuca, pronounced YOO-ka, is the root of the Cassava plant which is known botanically as Manihot esculenta. The name of this particular South American root has caused a bit of confusion due in part to its similarity to a desert plant native to the southeastern United States, the yucca pronounced YUHK-a. The two are entirely unrelated, though the spelling is used interchangeably in texts and articles. The general rule is one ‘c’ for the tropical, starchy, South American tuber and two ‘c’s for the desert succulent. Yuca root is also referred to as Cassava, Medioc or Mandioca and Tapioca throughout the tropical regions of the world it is grown in. In the United States, the name “tapioca” most often refers to the starch and other derivatives made from the root.
Yuca root is the third largest source of carbohydrates in the world and is considered a main food staple for millions. The starchy tuber is high in calcium, dietary fiber, potassium, and vitamins B6 and C. Yuca has relatively no protein, but does contain high levels of essential fatty acids and twice the calories of potatoes. The young leaves of the Yuca plant are rich in vitamin K and have more protein and nutrients than the root. Yuca root is gluten-free and the starch made from it is easily digested by anyone with dietary sensitivities. Yuca has been found to contain goitrogens, which are substances found in other cruciferous vegetables like cabbage that can block the intake of iodine by the thyroid. The presence of the goitrogens can increase the levels of iodine deficiency in areas where the Yuca root is the primary source of energy.
Yuca has been referred to as the most versatile vegetable by some, including cookbook author and journalist Steven Raichlen. Due to compounds present in raw Yuca, the root must be cooked prior to consumption. Yuca can be used just like potatoes in many dishes, it can be boiled and pureed, mashed and roasted. A popular application for Yuca in Columbia and Venezuela is fries. The root is cut into long, thick slices and is boiled first to a translucent state and cooled before frying. Yuca is used in a traditional Brazilian dish called “bollos pelones” – the root is peeled and boiled then chilled. The cool root is grated into a mash and made into hollow balls so they can be filled with meats or cheeses and fried. In Ghana and other parts of Africa, Cassava is used to make a traditional dish called fu-fu. Yuca is soaked in water for a few days (which can ferment the root for other uses like beverages) and then mashed with a mortar and pestle and wrapped in banana leaves. The packets are steamed and served like bread with stews and soups or on its own. Yuca root stores well and can be kept refrigerated or in a cool pantry for up to a month; it can be stored underground for a longer period.
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