Peru has a variety of tubers of different shapes, sizes as well as textures, which have become a great accompaniment to spicy dishes, stews, and some fried foods. The yucca is one of them. Also known as manioc or cassava, it grows in the departments of Amazonas, Loreto, Ucayali, Cajamarca and San Martín. Rough on the outside and soft on the inside, it can be consumed at any time, because it is available the whole year round.
The first records of yucca date back to around 6800 B.C. An ancient Andean legend tells that this crop has roots in its interior due to a curse that Wiracocha cast, after the tubers, not recognizing the god by their appearance, refused to be eaten by him. According to studies by researcher Tom Dillehay, the ancient inhabitants of Nanchoc, in Lambayeque, consumed its roots, as he found traces of them in his excavations. It was also widely present in the Paracas and Mochica cultures.
What does yucca provide? What vitamins does it have?
The yucca, considered in the list of superfoods, is rich in vitamin A, an essential substance for the good performance of vision. It also has a positive influence on the strengthening of bones. It also has a high dose of vitamin C, which protects the immune system and works as an antioxidant agent in the body, preventing skin diseases such as premature aging and oxidative stress.
This tuber is ideal for celiac patients, as it is gluten-free. Its low-fat content also makes it a luxury ingredient for diets. To these properties are added minerals such as zinc, potassium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, and copper, and other B vitamins such as B2, B3, B6, B9, and B17.
How to consume it?
The yucca can be enjoyed in different presentations. The easiest way is to make it in flakes or use flour as an ingredient, although there are more elaborate dishes that are ideal for lunch, mid-afternoon, or dinner. Here some of them.
Cooked Cooked yucca is a special complement to turn a meal into a feast of flavor. Cooked is a sacred ingredient in Peruvian gastronomy. Main dishes such as fish or duck ceviche, or the famous seco, either goat or lamb, or soups such as sancochado, reach the category of exquisite dishes with the presence of tasty yuccas. Magic is simple: put the yucca in water, wait until the inside is soft, remove it, cut it into wide sticks and that's it. Let's taste it!
Chapana. It is a sweet with a taste of history. This creation, made with chancaca and yucca, dates to the Republican times. The Peruvian writer Pedro Paz Soldán y Unanue, known as Juan de Arona, wrote some notes about the chapana in his book "Peruvian Idioms Dictionary" ("Diccionario de peruanismos"). The author describes the dessert as a "yucca and chancaca paste" that is served wrapped in panca leaves like humitas. More than a century later, this dessert is still sold by the famous chapaneras in the local markets.
Picarones. Its origin dates back to the 19th century, when fritters, brought by the Spaniards, made with flour and lard, were in circulation. This recipe was reinterpreted by the women dessert makers of Lima with local ingredients. This is how they became crispy and spongy rings made of sweet potato and squash covered in sugarcane honey. Over time, other ways to prepare it emerged. Squash, for example, was replaced by yucca. This variation is as nutritious as the original, which emerged during the conquest.
Fried A tasty and quick option to prepare is to fry the yuccas in thick sticks and serve them with tartar sauce (it can also be combined with guacamole or huancaína), forming a golden duo. To make them golden brown, it is recommended to fry them with butter or a little olive oil. They are perfect with stews such as chicken or fish cracklings.
Masato. The inhabitants of the Amazon rainforest developed this sacred beverage, which has accompanied ritual celebrations and other festivities since time immemorial. It is a white and somewhat thick drink, with a sweet and sour flavor, prepared from pressed or chewed yucca and fermented. A good drink of masato not only strengthens but also injects a good dose of joy.
When is yucca toxic?
The yucca is an ancient food that has been part of our gastronomy since pre-Inca times. However, it should never be eaten raw, since in addition to being very hard, it contains substances called cyanogenic glycosides, which when decomposed give rise to toxic compounds. These glycosides are degraded by an enzyme of the plant itself giving rise to hydrocyanic acid which eventually decomposes into acetone and cyanide.