Wednesday October 10, 2012
Today's blog will concern itself with a lesson on one of the world’s most important starches. Manioca root (also known as cassava), from which tapioca comes, grows like a weed here in the Amazon. People attach small wagons to the back of their motorcycles, drive out into the jungle, dig it up and sell it in the markets. I suppose it is grown on plantations too though I havent seen any. The thing about manioca is that a single root contains enough hydrogen cyanide to kill a human being. Ten times actually. A dose of 40 mg of raw roots will kill a cow! I’m glad I know that because I have made a habit out of buying the various fruits and vegetables that I don’t recognize and eating them... RAW! To prepare manioca, the locals boil them and grind them in large cast iron hand-cranked grinders available in the stores here. Then they take the soggy "masa" and put it in a long woven tube they call a "tipiti" which is tied to a tree limb and when it is pulled and twisted, the water is squeezed out. The resulting liquid is collected and dried, leaving a dry powder similar to corn starch. Pearl tapioca, like we have in the stores back home, is made by forcing the damp starchy masa through a sieve under high pressure and then drying the "pearls" in the sun. I happen to really like tapioca!
I had manioca today for lunch. It tasted similar to potatoes but was fairly bland and colourless. Manioca, in this form is used all over the world as a major source of carbohydrates, none of which I need!