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Fall Ingredient Essentials: Yucca

Known as cassava, casabe, yuca, mandioca, and yucca root, yucca is a starchy, weirdly shaped and supremely nutritious root vegetable. It's an excellent source of bone supporting Vitamin K and red blood cell supporting folate and it's also rich in B-complex vitamins and various minerals including iron, copper, manganese, and zinc. And bonus: it's naturally gluten-free and calorie dense, which means a little goes a long way!

How do I pick the best yucca?

Select yucca that is cylindrical and heavy for it’s size. The root should be very hard and unyielding to firm pressure. Examine it for soft spots, moldy spots, or deep cuts, all characteristics you don’t want in the yucca you are taking home. Yucca is generally covered in wax to help protect the root, so it may appear shiny with a white substance filling its crevices. Not to worry, the skin of the yucca is peeled during preparation so don’t let a little extra wax deter you from picking up an otherwise perfect root.

What can I make with yucca?

Yucca is prepared in a variety of ways from baked, boiled, broiled, and steamed to fried. It's important to note that yucca has small quantities of cyanide, a naturally occuring poison, so it can never be eaten raw. Peeling followed by thorough cooking ensures the root is safe for your eating pleasure. With that said, it doesn’t take long to cook up. Boil peeled and cut sections in salted water for 15 minutes or until tender, or bake peeled and sliced cassava in a 400 degrees oven for 5 minutes on each side until golden and crisp. You can also enjoy yucca frita, fried yucca, which is deep fried until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.

A few tips for preparation. Rinse yucca under cold water and trim the ends. Cut the root in three of four sections so it's easier to work with. Use a paring knife to peel the root as the skin is too thick to use a vegetable peeler. Peel deep enough to reveal the stark white flesh underneath. Then dice, cut into sections, or slice on a mandolin for chips! Remember to remove the fibrous core before or after cooking unless you are making chips. If you are not cooking immediately after cutting, toss yucca in a bowl of cold water with a touch of vinegar or lemon juice as they oxidize quickly in the open air.

Storage? Roots can be kept fresh at room temperature for up to a week. Peeled and cut yucca should be stored in the fridge in cold water to preserve freshness and should be used within three days. Steamed yucca can be frozen in a zip lock bag and it remains fresh for up to 6 months.

Next up, three yucca recipes to get you in the kitchen...

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