Cassava is a root crop that has become the third most valuable carbohydrate-giving meal in Africa today, and the second most valuable crop, after maize, in regions of Kenya. Furthermore, the crop is also highly sought in other regions of the world for the many derivatives that it offers in diverse ways.
Cassava, as a crop, is so valued for its nutritional composition. For daily cassava-consuming homes, the food(s)made from it provides more than 500 calories, convertible to the energy needed for work, study and play for all members of the family. Such an energy-giving produce cannot be undervalued.
As an agricultural crop, its leaves are also as beneficial for consumption as its tubers. Its tender leaves contain tangible amounts of protein, vitamin A, K, and B1(thiamine) and fibre—all very essential nutrients to the body.
More so, the tuber has a sufficient amount of the B-complex group, zinc, magnesium, copper, iron, manganese, and so on, which are all important to the maintenance and upkeep of the body and its functionalities. If you need a tangible reason to start growing cassava in your small or big farm, those embedded nutrients, which you may not have known the crop contains, should spur you on. It is also an evident encouragement that the market for cassava is a large one which can be taken advantage of to make great profit.
Nonetheless, before you embark on a cassava-eating and producing spree, there is a “downside” of the crop you should know about. It is the presence of a toxic compound found under the division of CYANOGENIC GLYCOSIDE, which is referred to as LINAMARIN (about 96% in content), and LOTAUSTRALIN (about 4% in content).
Both compounds are greatly found in the cassava leaves and also in the crop’s skin layer. Smaller proportions are found in its interior. This is why the cassava tubers should not be handled or thrown carelessly during harvest so that the skin is not injured, as an injury to the skin layer can cause the release of LINAMARESE, which is able to transform the large content of LINAMARIN to HYDROCYANIC ACID (HCN). This acid is dangerous as it causes the consumer of such cassava to be poisoned with cyanide.
A high cyanide level in any cassava to be consumed is very toxic to the body.
But before you scare and get discouraged about that cassava farm you can have, be encouraged with the knowledge that there are some ways in which the cyanide level of the crop can be reduced to a consumable level. These methods have been tested and proven over time and are now established as helpful facts which cassava producers and processers can practice to save lives. They are explained below:
- THROUGH SOAKING, COOKING AND STORING:
It has been discovered over time that immersing the cassava tuber(s) in water for about 3 days and then boiling them in water that is mixed with salt and vinegar can lead to total evaporation of the toxic hydrocyanic acid embedded therein.
Research findings have it that cyanide reduces by up to 30% following a four-day storage of the tubers at “ambient” temperature.It reduces by about 50% after boiling in water. There is a whopping 80% reduction when it is grated and then boiled. And it reduces by a good 50% if grated and boiled in water using a local oven. This method surely is a safe and easy way to ensure that consumersdon’t getfood poisoned from ingested cassava.
- THROUGH FERMENTATION:
In the process of fermentation, the yeast agent that carries out the fermenting activity is able to harness the “cyanogenic glucoside” together with their metabolites for use. This usage reduces the toxic and poisonous compounds that may be in the cassava.
In favour of this process, it has been discovered that a combined effort between yeast and lactic acid bacteria, rather than one of either, produces a better result for the fermentation procedure. Hence, the same can be adopted for the cassava to rid it of all toxicity so that consumers stay safe.
Normally, a fermentation process happens over a six-day period.
- THROUGH GRINDING AND SUN DRYING:
In this process, the grinding of the cassava makes the linamarese enzyme, that changes the poisonous compounds found in the roots to volatile ones, open.
Drying the cassava under the sun, on the other hand, naturally reduces its moisture, and then leads to a reduced yield of the cyanohydrin content.
Nonetheless, you should know that just drying the product under the sun for a long time will not adequately lower the cyanogenic content in roots that are bitter…at least not to the standard that the Food and Agricultural Organization has set for safe consumption. Hence, a combined process of drying the product, followed by thoroughly grinding it, yields the best result.
With the above solutions that have been provided to combat cyanide toxicity in cassava, you can go ahead with the planting and production processes which have promising prospects.
Cassava, after being made safe by either of those methods, has a wide range of possibilities. The cassava can be milled into flour, fried into chips and crisps, and mixed with other ingredients to produce products made from flour.
More so, beyond human consumption, there are so many other pluses from farming such a crop. For example, the leaves of the crop can be dried into powder. In addition, the tubers’peelscan be used as food for animals and as fertilizer for the soil.
In conclusion, cassava is a crop that is worthy of the value placed on it. Not only has it proven to be very beneficial as a source of energy in many African homes, it also exceeds the conventional demand as a crop just for daily consumption. With every part of the crop being useful, it will be unwise to neglect the large market that a farmer can cater to by choosing to properly produce and process it. What more—cyanide, the crop’s sole disadvantage,can be taken care of using the methods that have been shown in the article.