Cassava, or Manioc, a small shrub grown in the tropics for its edible starchy roots. The roots and the starch derived from them are also called cassava.
The cassava plant reaches a height of 5 to 12 feet (1.5 to 3.7 m). It has compound leaves with 3 to 13 lobes. The plant bears small fruit contained in capsules. The roots are thick and tuberous.
The bitter cassava is an important food crop in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The roots are peeled and grated, and then pressed in a sieve to remove the juices, which contain prussic acid, a poisonous chemical. The starch from the roots is then ground and processed into flour, which is used to make tapioca, bread, cakes, pasta, and meal. The roots of the cassava are also used as a source of ethanol for fuel and in some animal feeds. The sweet cassava, also grown for its edible roots, is of minor importance because it yields less starch than the bitter cassava.
Cassava belongs to the spurge family, Euphorbiaceae. The bitter cassava is Manihot esculenta; the sweet cassava, M. dulcis.