Yuca is very similar to the potato; it is native to subtropical regions. It is so drought-tolerant that it is the favorite crop for cultivation in countries that lack soil.
Yuca is unrelated to the southwestern United States plant known as Yucca. Both spellings have been used interchangeably, but Yuca (pronounced YOO-ka) is different from Yucca (pronounced YUHK-a). Yuca is a staple food in many countries and feeds over a billion people in several regions of the world.
What does yuca taste like? The taste of yuca is similar to that of the potato. It’s flavor is almost bland, and its starchy flesh has a grainy texture. Although most people describe the taste of yuca as bland, some think it has a subtly sweet, earthy, and nutty taste.
Yuca generally looks like a small club a cave dweller would go hunting with. It has a rough bark-like skin that is not edible. You can easily remove the skin from the yuca before cooking.
Nutritional Benefits of Yuca
Yuca can cause death if it is not cooked correctly or eaten raw. But when it is cooked and edible, it packs a lot of nutrients. Many people think yuca is too starchy to have nutritional benefits. If you are one of those people, prepare to be surprised. Yuca is nutrient-dense and packed with a lot of vitamins.
It is important to know that yuca contains a high amount of vitamin C. It helps to boost immunity, increasing the production of white blood cells, strengthening the body against viruses, infection, and diseases. Vitamin C also helps with the healing of wounds in the body. Yuca supplies the body with other vitamins like folate, magnesium, vitamin A, choline, calcium, and ahigh potassium content.
Yuca is starchy. You can get 39 grams of carbohydrates from a half-cup of raw yuca. In that same amount of yuca, you can get 1.9 grams of fiber, 1.4 grams of protein, 14 milligrams of sodium, and 1.8 grams of sugar. There is almost no fat in yuca; it is so small that it is practically negligible. Yuca doesn’t contain much protein, but it contains trace amounts of 18 different kinds of amino acids.
One cup of yuca can provide 16 to 21 percent of the recommended daily intake (RDI) for potassium in adults. Potassium plays a vital role in the body. It regulates blood pressure, prevents blockages in the blood vessels, and promotes heart health.
Since yuca is a staple food in most developing countries, scientists have managed to produce yuca varieties that are high in carotenoids to help improve eye health and reduce the risk of macular degeneration as we grow older. Starchy foods like yuca are recommended for pregnant women and nursing mothers to help them increase milk production in their bodies. There is no scientific proof to support this claim, but it is a common practice in the Western region of Sierra Leone.
Culinary Uses of Yuca
How do you cook yuca without the risk of poisoning yourself? Yuca is pretty easy to prepare. It has a consistency similar to that of the white potato, which makes it suitable for a number of savory or sweet dishes and recipes.
You can prepare yuca the same way you handle a potato. You can boil, bake, or mash it. But you always have to get rid of the skin first. The most common recipes with yuca are yuca fries, yuca mashed cakes, and baked yuca chips. Traditional African dishes also use yuca; the root vegetable is pounded into a dough and served in soup. This delicacy is known as Fufu.
Yuca is not a popular food item you find on the menu of many restaurants, but you might find it on the menus of local Latin American restaurants close to you. If you want to cook yuca, you have to be adventurous and probably try out some recipes using instructions. It is not complex to cook, and you can experiment as much as you like.
If you manage to take a liking to yuca, you might find yourself replacing potatoes with yuca.
Where Does Yuca Grow? How Do You Procure it?
Yuca is native to South America. Although it is a perennial plant, it is cultivated annually in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible root. Yuca is mostly consumed boiled, but cassava starch, also known as tapioca, can be extracted from it.
The popular garri from West Africa and the Brazilian Farinha is edible coarse flour obtained by grating yuca, drying it before roasting it. Nigeria is the largest producer of yuca globally, while Thailand is the largest exporter.
There are different variants of yuca, and they are classified as bitter or sweet. Most farmers prefer the bitter variants because they are less susceptible to pests, thieves, and animals. Yuca is usually long and tapered, and the skin is about 1 mm thick. The average yuca is 6 to 12 inches long and has a diameter of 2 to 4 inches.
If you walk into any grocery store in the United States, you should find yuca in the produce section. If you can’t find it at the grocery store, you can check local Asian or Latin stores close to where you live.
Is Yuca Healthier Than Potatoes?
Yuca has a lower glycemic index of 46; potatoes have a glycemic index of 72 to 88, and the number primarily depends on the cooking method used for the potato. Yuca is considered healthier than potatoes; it has more calories, more protein, and more carbohydrates.
Facts You Don’t Know About Yuca
- Yuca is good for arthritis. It is commonly used for making pharmaceutical tablets. When consumed in tablet form, it can help soothe pain because of its anti-inflammatory properties.
- Yuca is related to latex allergies, and there have been isolated cases of reported allergic reactions. Be sure to visit the hospital if you suspect you are allergic to yuca.