Try this experiment and go outside your house into your yard and see if you can find any food that you could eat. Imagine if grocery stores ceased to exist, is there anything in your backyard you could eat?
You might be able to cut off those fiddleheads on your Hapu’u fern and eat those for a few days. Maybe you have a Mamaki bush? You could make some tea.
If your backyard is a dim as this, you need to start turning your home into a place of culinary delight! You can be growing food in your yard right now.
Why not start with something that is very easy to grow, is high in carbohydrates and is delicious. Yuca, cassava, or tapioca (Manihot esculenta) is an excellent food plant for beginners and experienced gardeners. It is a root tuber and can be cooked similar to potatoes.
Yuca can grow from seeds or from cuttings. On the farm, we typically cut down a yuca shrub to harvest it when it reaches 6 feet high. To grow from cuttings, cut 5-6″ long pieces from the 1/2″ to 1″ wide branches and replant either horizontally –sticking upright out of the soil or cinder, or vertically –semi buried in the ground.
The seeds are round green pods and turn brown when ripe with approximately four seeds inside. Pull off the pods and let dry in a somewhat contained vessel because when they dry they pop sending the seed flying through the air.
The cuttings grow with very little effort and I have never fertilized these plants at all. They don’t require lots of water or will happily take what Pele has to offer. Once I leaned a cutting on the fence, for planting later and never did. That plant is healthy and growing where I left it!
Yuca can be grown from sea level to 6,500 ft., dry or wet conditions and in alkaline or acidic soil.
It’s a small shrub type plant and should be harvested when 6ft tall. It can grow longer but often the older roots will be too tough to eat.
I hear, even from the most sustainable food growing people, that they don’t know how to eat it and that they don’t like it very much. I have some recipes for you to try and I guarantee you will like it if not love it!
Dug up roots have a short life span, so prepare the day you harvest. You must prepare the yuca root properly because the raw root and leaves contain toxins if not. Do not eat raw. Remove all the skin off the root. This can be done by cutting the root in 3 inch sections and using a knife chop swiftly but gently a 1/16″ deep cut down the outside of the root. Then wiggle the knife until the outer skin pops up and use the knife and your fingers to peal and remove the skin.
When cutting into sections, if your knife does not go too easily through the root, it’s too old and tough and discard it. Use only fresh, new roots about 1″ to 3″ diameter.
Soak your roots in water up to several hours before cooking. The soaking will release the toxins and bitterness. Roots from plants used for eating are less bitter than some varieties used for flour or other processes.
Some roots will have a long, thin fibrous strand in the center of the root. You can remove easily after cooking or cut out before you cook it.
I cook my Yuca for about 20 minutes in a pressure cooker. You can boil them and it will take longer. They will be fork tender when done cooking. During the cooking process, I make a mojo sauce to go with the root for a dish that is very popular in South Florida and in other countries like Cuba.
Yuca con mojo:
- one or two onions sliced very thin
- five or six finely chopped garlic cloves
- Hawaiian sea salt
- 3/4 cup of olive oil
- juice of one lime, approx. 1/4 cup
- salt and pepper to taste
On the lowest burner setting, place onions and olive oil in a saute pan and cook slowly until the onions are soft and slightly transparent. Add garlic, salt, pepper, lime juice; stir and keep warm on low. Take cooked yuca in a large bowl and pour mojo on and toss. Let the mojo soak into the yuca for a few minutes while you toss a few more times and serve.
Yuca is very abundant and one plant will yield many roots. With left over root that has been soaked, store in the refrigerator for a few days either whole or shredded.
Yuca Hash Browns:
You can make this dish with or without onions and peppers. If using them, just saute a few minutes before you place the shredded yuca in the pan. Yuca is cruncher than regular potatoes and makes a delicious hash brown. In my opinion, it’s even better for home french fries because it stays crunchy longer than potatoes.
- chopped onions and peppers
- shredded, prepared yuca root
- lard or frying oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Heat a cast iron skillet and add oil. Saute any onions or peppers. Lay down shredded yuca in a 1/2″ layer on pan and cook until slightly brown then flip and cook other side. Serve with eggs or any breakfast meat you desire.
Yuca is over 75% digestible and is a good source of calcium and vitamin C.
You can also find the starch in stores and I use it in place of corn starch because it does not contain GMO ingredients.
Ask around and see if anyone near you is growing yuca or cassava. Get a branch or some seeds and begin to grow your own. Start your edible landscape now and begin using your little patch of green to produce food for you and your family.