Yuca and Yucca are different plants.
Yuca – Manihot esculenta is an edible root crop also known as cassava, mandioca, casabe or manioc in the Euphorbiaceae family.
Yucca – Yucca spp. is a genus of plants in the Asparagaceae family. For example: Y. gigantea is native to Mexico and Central America. Its flowers are used in various traditional dishes and its common names are Itabo or Izote. Y. filamentosa is native to Florida, aboriginals across North America used it to make fibers, as a food crop, medicine and tool, it is known by the common name of Spanish bayonet or Adam’s needle.
A few years back probably in the summer of 2017 when Raleigh was searching for plants to grow a forestgarden in the backyard he found an ad on Craigslist of different tropical plants for sale. He decided to visit the lady who had posted the ad. Her name is Shan and the story we will tell through this post is thanks to her. Shan is originally from India her backyard was a jungle when Raleigh first visited her. Jackfruit, passionfruit, perennial food crops, mangoes, jujube, avocado, moringa, neem, lychee, longan and many more were planted or in pots everywhere in her backyard. She had a true passion for growing and cooking food and was also a member of the Tampa rare fruit council.
Raleigh purchased several plants from Shan but by far the best find was the yellow cassava her grandmother had brought from Kerala, India to the United States and that they had been growing for some generations already. Shan did not have a name for it, so after we harvested the first crop we decided to name it after her. The first crop was astounding, as you can see in the pictures. The yuca cooked fairly fast and when ready was a deep yellow color, creamy, soft and very sweet. By far the best root crop we have grown ourselves and tasted.
After this first crop which we harvested between January and February 2019 we started selling and spreading these cuttings. They made it to many distant places and we have received especially good feedback from Josh Jamison who grew it along with other cassava varieties he had been growing for years and said it was an amazing producer and very good quality eating.
Then came Ranjit. Who knew Shan and who has been looking for ‘Butterstick’ cassava all over Florida and beyond. We did not know about this variety until we met him and we have to this day not had a chance to try it. We sometimes believe the yellow cassava we have may be that mysterious variety so many seem to be looking for called ‘Butterstick’. Ranjit has also never confirmed if he found ´Butterstick´ or if Shan’s yellow is the same or similar.
Yellow yuca is much more common in South America and less common but still cultivated in Central America. Annie has tried yellow yuca cultivated at INA in Costa Rica, she said it was far superior to the more commonly cultivated white variety but not close to the taste and creaminess of Shan’s yellow. So much so, that we brought this cassava to Costa Rica to grow it and test its performance there.
We like to clean, peel and cut yuca to freeze. We have frozen it for over a year and it still has a good taste and texture even after being frozen for so long. If we harvest yuca for consumption or sale we store it covered in soil in dark and dry place. Yuca preserves best this way for up to a week as the soil acts as a preservative. If yuca gets wet or the soil is very wet after harvesting let it dry out thoroughly away from direct sunlight.
- Cassava grows well in loose sandy soils. It can succumb to rot if area floods. It is cultivated on a mound or slightly raised area.
- Plant from cuttings with three eyes below the soil line and three above. See images. We always have some cuttings available either bare or rooted at the nursery. Raleigh likes to use ‘Y’ shaped cuttings as they seem to make larger tubers. We have also seen this practice in subsistence gardens in Costa Rica.
- Shan’s yellow has responded very well to mulch in our case as have other cassava varieties.
- It definitely grows very actively between spring and fall in Central Florida, during cooler months it slows down. If planted in the fall the time until harvest may extend or the plant may not develop as large tubers as it does when planted in early spring.
- The average optimal time from planting a cutting until harvest that we have found is 9 months. However this may be reduced depending on the season the cutting is planted. If the plant has been potted very long before planting, or stays too long in the ground after planting, or the soil quality is poor/polluted the tubers will acquire a bitter taste and possibly become hard, fibrous and inedible.
- Minimal to no watering required, especially when abundant mulch is used.
- Shan’s yellow falls over easily in windy conditions. Planting it in a protected area may produce better yields.
- Root crops will benefit from rotation with nitrogen fixers or plants from the malvaceae, poaceae and other families. Cassava especially should not be planted in the same spot consecutively.
Raleigh’s favorite recipes include yuca mash and pastel de yuca. For yuca mash follow the same instructions as for mashed potatoes. Yuca has far more starch than potatoes and thus we feel that using milk is not necessary. However we like to mash the yuca with water and ghee or butter. It turns out delicious. For pastel de yuca there are many recipes out there it is basically a yuca, veggie and or meat casserole. Raleigh uses this recipe.
Shan’s yellow seems to cook quicker than white cassavas. Boil it in water without a lid on the pot and after 10 to 15 minutes test the softness of the tubers puncturing them with a knife, it should cut through without effort. If you are making yuca frita or fried yuca you will want the tubers to be slightly firmer but still soft. The ones in the picture below were cooked very soft for pastel de yuca.
In the tropics growing potatoes in the lowland areas might be a challenge but not cassava. In terms of workload to yield cassava also seems a much more less intensive crop, it does take a longer time to develop and be ready for harvest but it does it with little to no input after planting. Cassava leaves are edible once they are boiled as well, making it a versatile plant for the homegarden, homestead or subsistence garden.
Yuca together with true yams (Dioscorea alata), taros (Colocasia esculenta), malanga (Xanthosoma saggitifolium), tiquisque (Xanthosoma violaceum), arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea), sweet potatoes (Ipomea batatas), achira (Canna edulis) and green bananas or plantains can cover the requirements for carbohydrates in a subsistence garden in the tropics and subtropics. Growing these crops can eliminate the need for rice or wheat, they are slow foods meaning they take some time to develop, establishing them early in a project could be of benefit.
We would like to preserve Shan’s yellow yuca variety over many generations and hope that the information on this post helps those who come across it preserve the knowledge of its origin and story. Shan’s yellow yuca has become a staple for us and we will grow more of it in the future.