cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz), also called mandioca, manioc, aipim, and yuca, is an Amerindian staple food native to Brazil. By the time the Europeans arrived in the New World, it had already spread throughout South America and the Caribbean basin. Through programs of plant exchange cassava was introduced into the tropics, reaching Africa and Asia in the seventeenth century. Early Brazilian documents refer to the root as “bread,” and the flour processed from it soon came to be used as a wheat substitute in baking when combined with sugar or molasses. See molasses and sugar. Because cassava is often planted on small farms, it plays an important role in preserving local cultures. Today, Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of cassava.