Cassava is a woody shrub native to South America of the spurge family, Euphorbiaceae. Although a perennial plant, cassava is extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible starchy tuberous root, a major source of carbohydrates.

Cassava is the third-largest source of food carbohydrates in the tropics, after rice and maize. Cassava is a major staple food in the developing world, providing a basic diet for over half a billion people. It is one of the most drought-tolerant crops, capable of growing on marginal soils. The cassava plant gives the third-highest yield of carbohydrates per cultivated area among crop plants, after sugarcane and sugar beets.

Cassava is classified as either sweet or bitter. Like other roots and tubers, both bitter and sweet varieties of cassava contain antinutritional factors and toxins, with the bitter varieties containing much larger amounts. It must be properly prepared before consumption.

The cassava root is long and tapered, with a firm, homogeneous flesh encased in a detachable rind, about 1 mm thick, rough and brown on the outside. The flesh can be chalk-white or yellowish. Cassava roots are very rich in starch and contain small amounts of calcium (16 mg/100 g), phosphorus (27 mg/100 g), and vitamin C (20.6 mg/100 g). However, they are poor in protein and other nutrients. In contrast, cassava leaves are a good source of protein (rich in lysine).

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