Food Plants - Perennial

Growing Cassava in the Perennial Main Crop at Zaytuna Farm

Cassava is a perennial. I have eaten cassava eight years after planting and it was fine, with just a small thin woody core that needed to be stripped out like a strong woody cord.

Cassava can easily be planted as a cutting, 150mm to 200mm (6 to 8 inches) with 2/3’s in the ground and 1/3 out.

Here in the sub-tropics it will grow over 2 meters (6.5 feet) tall in 9 months and once it has grown a few branches and leaves it has a low water demand. It likes a well drained soil but will not take a strong frost.

The thick starchy roots spread out into the soil and have a low fertility demand.

The plant in this photo produced 5.3 kilos (11lb 7oz) of root food in eight months.

There is an outer cortex, like a distinct outer layer of the root, that can easily be split and peeled, and the inner root has to be cooked, after which it can be used as a savoury or a sweet component in meals. The juice can be pearlised into tapioca.

Cassava is a major main-crop of the sub-tropical/tropical world with over 250 varieties in Brazil, its origin.

Geoff Lawton

Geoff Lawton is a world renowned Permaculture consultant, designer and teacher. He first took his Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) Course in 1983 with Bill Mollison the founder of Permaculture. Geoff has undertaken thousands of jobs teaching, consulting, designing, administering and implementing, in 6 continents and close to 50 countries around the world. Clients have included private individuals, groups, communities, governments, aid organizations, non-government organisations and multinational companies under the not-for-profit organisation. In 1996 Geoff was accredited with the Permaculture Community Services Award by the Permaculture movement for services in Australia and around the world. Geoff's official website is GeoffLawtonOnline.com. Geoff's Facebook profile can be found here.

18 Comments

  1. I grow it Northern Florida (USA) which for those unfamiliar often gets below freezing in the winter. We had a super cold winter this past year where it got down to about 15-16 F at night and a high one day of only 31F (that’s just below freezing – as the HIGHEST temperature of the day). Despite this the roots sprouted back this spring, much to my delight! The roots are very poor nutritionally, but the leaves are rich in protein as well as the other things you expect from leafy greens. They are also delicious – but they must be pounded (or ground in a food processor) and then boiled for a good while to get rid of cyanide. Sounds scary, but truly it is delicious and very nutritious once you do that. I like them with an African style peanut sauce and eaten with the roots.

    1. Hope I have the same results as you. I live in keystone heights this is first year I have planted cassava

  2. Here in Réunion island we eat leaves, they’re rich in proteines, iron and other nutritious elements. Roots are cooked in water, or grated and cooked with eggs, sugar and butter in a delicious cake called “gateau manioc” or grated and cooked as pancakes. A wonderful plant, resistant and easy to grow.

  3. Good to know its still edible past it’s prime. I’ve got a bunch of 1 yr old cassava (in ground) that my Asian friend said was too old. Nice to know I can still use it once I figure out how to cook it properly. Thanks.

  4. So delighted to read this. I’ve just spent 2 weeks in Tonga and manioc (cassava) grows everywhere and is readily available in the markets. From one of the comments, maybe it will be worth trying in a suitable microclimate in New Zealand.

    1. Hi Sue, Did you manage to get any cassava into NZ? If so I would love to get some from you. I live in the Far North.

  5. here in Brasil as you mentioned there are many varieties, including yellow ones and ones that cook quicker than others. It is a very useful plant in agroforestry to planta alogside the trees as its strong roots quickly open up the soil for the tree roots to follow. These ones we don’t harvest, but cut yearly to provide organic matter. each year the root go deeper. I have also experimented harvesting the roots from one side and then the next year from the other side. This way you don’t harvest the whole plant all at once. each winter to spring we cut the stalks down to the ground and in spring / summer they quickly shoot up again. Cover the cut stalks and the cold doesn’t affect them. regards Pete

  6. That’s great info, Pete! Are the roots harvested the second year good to eat – not too fibrous? How cold does it get in your part of Brazil? Also, what are you covering the stalks with and how deep is it? Thanks!

  7. Hi Renee, when I lived in the mountains, (1400m.) the winter temperature went to 2 below zero. the roots took 2 years to get up to a size to eat. each year they tend to get a little woodier; the central part of the root is tougher; They just take longer to cook. I cover them with a hands’ width (25cm.) of jumbled grass or dried bracken is wonderful against the cold. Now I garden nearby Sao Paulo; the winters still get pretty cold but only 8 to 10 celsius. Regards Pete

  8. Learning about tropical agro-forestry at Univ Hawai’i-Hilo. During plant propagation lesson, received 2 cassava cuttings – 15″ stem stalk – which I planted in amended soil. I realize now I should plant them deeper more below soil line than above..

  9. You can plant the stem cuttings lying down, covered with just 5 cm. of soil. here in Brazil it is common to planta with a bit of wood ash which helps keep the termites away long enough for it to start growing, after which they leave it aione. We also use it in agroforestry as a’ nurse planta’ and in this case plant the cuttungs at a slight angle together with the trees. this way the roots grow deep into the soil, helping the penetration of the tree roots (which follow the strong cassava roots. These roots are not harvested , but the plants are cut regularly to provide mulch and also the cooked leaves are edible. A really fantastic plant to grow.
    Planted lying down, the roots tend to spread out to the sides more, which makes harvesting a lot easier.

  10. I was told the leaves were better than lucerne, used for horses is this true and is it only cooked for humans when using the leaves

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