Cassava originated in the Amazon Basin of tropical Brazil. Its cultivation spread from there to other parts of Latin America thousands of years ago. It was introduced to Africa by Portuguese traders, and soon became a staple across Africa. In Africa, about 70 percent of cassava production is used as food for humans. The most popular processed products are commonly known as gari, lafun, foufou, attiéké and chickwangue.
Gari is a dry and granular cassava meal, made from fermented cassava. Gari is a staple in many parts of West Africa and a common accompaniment to soups and stews. Other forms of processed cassava in West Africa include Lafun, which is made from sun-dried cassava, and fufu, which is a sticky paste made from fermented cassava. In other parts of Central Africa, cassava is commonly made into flour from dried roots or chunks of roots, and consumed as flour commonly named attiéké and chikwangue.
How is Cassava Prepared and Consumed in Africa?
Cassava is incredibly versatile; it can be boiled, baked, steamed, grilled, fried, mashed or added to stews. However, in Africa, cassava is most likely to be fermented and boiled.
Types of Cassava:
There are two varieties of cassava – sweet and bitter. Both contain hydrocyanic acid, which can cause cyanide poisoning. Cooking or pressing the root thoroughly removes the poison, hence cassava roots must be processed before they can be eaten. In Africa, this is typically done by grinding the roots into a paste, which releases the compound from the tissue. The paste is then packed into woven wicker tubes, which are stretched tight on a frame. This squeezes the juice containing the poison out of the paste. Once all the juice is squeezed from the tubes, the paste is removed and laid in the sun to dry.
Cassava roots are high in starch, making it a good energy source, and vitamin C, but are low in vitamin A and protein. This means that cassava should be eaten in combination with other foods to achieve a balanced diet.