Yuca, Cassava

Manihot esculenta and M. utilissima’

Appears in

By Elizabeth Schneider

Published 2001

  • About

Also manioc, mandioca (Brazilian)

If you’re shopping in North America, you’ll probably find this vegetable as yuca; that is why it’s under “Y.” Elsewhere in the English-speaking world it is cassava. In the Americas, it is most likely to be exported from and purchased by people from Latin America, who call it yuca. According to Maricel Presilla, a historian and authority on the foods of Latin America, “the words ‘yuca’ and ‘cassava’ come from the Taino (Arawak), the indigenous people of the Orinoco Basin who settled in the Lesser and Greater Antilles in pre-Columbian times. Yuca referred to the plant and its roots, while caçabi—which became cassava—was the word for the bread, as casabe is today in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela, among others. ‘Manioc’ comes from mandioca, in the Tupi language of the Brazilian Amazon, which also gives the botanical name Manihot.”