Yuccas are ornamental plants in Europe and North America, but they have edible tubers and flowers. Two yuccas that can’t be eaten are the Actaea rubra or banana yucca and the Actaea arguta. You can eat the flowers and the tubers of the other plants, although they have to be peeled and leached of toxins. Some can be eaten raw, but you have to know which type these are before you start chomping on a tuber.
   They originated in Central America, and the manioc or cassava is the source of what we know as tapioca, the stuff that looks a little like frog spawn when cooked as a dessert with milk. This comes from Manihot esculenta, which is also used to make flour which has the advantage of being gluten free. It is made by grating the raw tuber and then drying the grated root and grinding to a powder or meal. In Brazil, they make Farafa which is seasoned manioc meal which is used as a condiment on almost every cooked dish in Brazil.
cassava or manioc crop
   Manioc or cassava has been a staple crop for centuries, and archaeologists have found evidence that it was cultivated by the Mayans 1400 years ago in El Salvador. They discovered a field the size of a football pitch which had been preserved under a blanket of volcanic ash. Today the crop is also used to make alcoholic drinks including beer, as well as being a staple food. It has twice the protein value of a potato and is higher in vitamin content and potassium than the potato, so it has been a valuable food crop over the centuries.
   It was discovered by the Portuguese and Spanish explorers and they took it to the Caribbean, Africa and Asia, where it is also commonly used today.
edible manioc root
    The Witoto tribe of the Colombian Amazon use the water used to leach the toxins out of the bitter roots to poison fish and other tribes use the water to treat skin infections and as poultices to draw out foreign bodies from the skin. The Makura use it to get rid of scabies. It has antimicrobial properties and is used to heal wounds.
    The flowers of the yucca plants can be stuffed with breadcrumbs or a vegetable mixture and baked. In this they are similar to the edible buds of the kachnar tree and other edible flowers such as the rose, nasturtium and lavender. The tubers can be used like potatoes and baked, boiled or steamed after being peeled as there is prussic acid in the skins which gives them a bitter taste. You can make crisps or chips with them and they are good fried with garlic and chilli.

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