Tapioca Plant Harvesting – How To Harvest A Tapioca Plant

Tapioca Plant Harvesting – How To Harvest A Tapioca Plant

Do you like tapioca pudding? Have you ever wondered where tapioca comes from? Personally, I’m not at all a fan of tapioca, but I can tell you that tapioca is a starch extracted from the root of a plant known as Cassava or Yuca (Manihot esculenta), or simply ‘tapioca plant’. In fact, tapioca is just one of many diverse delicacies that you can create using the roots of a cassava plant. Cassava requires at least 8 months of frost-free weather to produce roots, so this is a crop that is more ideal for those living in USDA Zones 8-11. It’s easy to grow and harvesting tapioca roots is quite easy too. So, the questions at hand are – how to harvest a tapioca plant and when to harvest tapioca root? Let’s find out, shall we?

When to Harvest Tapioca Root

The roots can be harvested, cooked, and eaten as soon as they form, but if you are looking for a somewhat substantial harvest, you may want to hold off for a while. Some early cultivars of cassava can be harvested as early as 6-7 months after planting. Most varieties of cassava, however, are typically of a plump harvestable size around the 8-9 month mark.

You can leave cassava in the ground for up to two years, but be aware that the roots will become tough, woody, and fibrous towards the end of that timeframe. It is best to do your tapioca plant harvesting within the first year or so.

Before you harvest your entire cassava plant, it is advisable to inspect one of its deep brown flaky roots to see if it is desirable to you, not only in terms of size but also from a culinary standpoint. Using a trowel, gently do some exploratory digging next to the plant. Your search will be facilitated by knowing that cassava roots can typically be uncovered in the first few inches (5 to 10 cm.) of soil and tend to grow down and away from the main stem.

Once you discover a root, try massaging the dirt away from the root with your hands to expose it. Cut the root off where the neck tapers by the stem of the plant. Boil your cassava root and give it a taste test. If the taste and texture is favorable to you, you are ready for tapioca plant harvesting! And, please, do remember to boil, as the boiling process removes toxins that are present in the raw form.

How to Harvest a Tapioca Plant

A typical cassava plant may yield 4 to 8 individual roots or tubers, with each tuber potentially reaching 8-15 inches (20.5-38 cm.) long and 1-4 inches (2.5-10 cm.) wide. When harvesting tapioca roots, try to do so without damaging the roots. Damaged tubers produce a healing agent, coumaric acid, which will oxidize and blacken the tubers within a few days of harvest.

Prior to harvesting tapioca roots, cut the cassava stem one foot (0.5 m.) above ground. The remaining part of the stem protruding from the ground will be helpful for the plant’s extraction. Loosen the soil around and under the plant with a long-handled spading fork – just be sure the insertion points of your spading fork are not invading the tuber’s space, as you do not want to damage the tubers.

You can further work the plant loose from the soil by gently rocking the main stem to and fro, up and down until you feel the plant start to free itself from the soil. Using your garden fork to help lift and anchor the plant from below, grab the main stem and pull upwards and, hopefully, you will have removed the entire plant, with its root system, intact.

At this point, the tubers can be removed from the base of the plant by hand. Freshly harvested cassava roots need to be eaten or processed within four days of harvest before they start deteriorating. Tapioca, anyone?

How to Grow Taro

Taro–also called Dasheen–is a perennial tropical or subtropical plant commonly grown for its starchy but sweet flavored tuber. Taro is always served cooked, not raw. The taro tuber is cooked like a potato, has a doughy texture, and can be used to make flour. Young taro leaves and stems can be eaten after boiling twice to remove the acrid flavor. Cook taro leaves like spinach. A paste called poi is made from the taro root.

Description. Taro is a perennial herbaceous plant that grows from 3 to 6 feet tall. Its leaves are light green, elongated, and heart-shaped similar to an elephant’s ear. Tubers are spherical and about the size of a tennis ball often covered with brownish skin and hairs the flesh is pinkish purple, beige or white. Each plant grows one large tuber often surrounded by several smaller tubers. Taro requires seven months of hot weather to mature.

Yield. Grow 10 to 15 taro plants for each person in the household depending upon usage.

Taro is a tropical or subtropical plant that requires very warm temperatures and consistent moisture to thrive.

Ideal Conditions for Tapioca Cultivation

Climate for Tapioca Cultivation

Being a tropical crop, tapioca requires a warm, tropical weather with well- distributed rainfall. For a good crop, it needs eight months of warm weather. If the weather is cool and dry then it would require a period of at least 18 months to fully mature and produce crop. It is well-known for drought tolerance. Under drought-like conditions, cassava conserves moisture by shedding the leaves. It produces new leaves when it starts raining.

Cassava Cultivation

Season for Cassava Cultivation

Cassava can be planted at any time of the year if there are adequate irrigation facilities. If the water supply is completely dependent on the rains then cassava is planted just after the pre-monsoon showers. It is planted during the months of June-July in most states of India. However in southern and some eastern states of the country like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, planting is done during April-May as the pre-monsoon showers start a little early here.

Soil for Cassava Plantation

A well-drained soil is preferred for cassava cultivation. It cannot tolerate flood like conditions and the roots run deep. Hence, red laterite soil is the best suited for the cultivation purposes. Sandy loam soil is also good since it allows water to drain while holding back the moisture content. An advantage of cassava cultivation is that it can grow in soils with low fertility level. Sometimes cassava is cultivated in poor, nutrient deficient soil to increase its fertility.

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PH Required

Tapioca tolerates soil pH in the range of 4.5 to 8.0.

Water for Cassava Farming

Tapioca can be planted as both rain-fed as well as irrigated crop. However, for the first three weeks after plantation the soil must have adequate moisture supply to lodge itself and produce healthy tubers in the soil. Generally the first irrigation is done immediately after planting followed by the second one on the 3rd day. After this it is irrigated once a week for the next three months. After three months it is irrigated once in every 20 days up to the eighth month. However, throughout its growth period the soil moisture content must be closely monitored. The field must be irrigated as soon as the moisture content dips below 25%. Studies have shown to increase the yield if the irrigation is done on the basis of monitoring the soil moisture content.

For watering the plants, drip irrigation is the most preferred type of irrigations system. Flooding the field is not preferred since tapioca cannot tolerate huge amount of water. Drip also ensures that water is dispensed only at the base of the plant near its roots.

Intercropping Operations

In the initial first three months of plantation, leguminous crops like pulses are cultivated. This is especially done if the soil is poor in nutrient levels. Some farmers also grow maize or groundnut along with cassava. However these crops must be harvested within the first 90 days of cultivation.

How to Grow Yuca

We started growing yuca in Costa Rica when we first moved to our property. We buried cuttings in horrible hard clay soil and they were totally neglected. To our surprise, they still popped up and made tasty yuca roots under the soil. However, one lesson learned was that the roots like sandy looser soil. The hard soils make for smaller roots. In addition, any amount of shade will reduce tuber size. Plant them in full sun!

Here’s a video of Jodi propagating yuca from cuttings.

Good harvest! And plenty of cuttings to replant.

Yuca will grow just about anywhere it’s warm, including indoors as a potted plant. Planting is fairly simple. Use cuttings that are about a foot long, bigger than one cm thick, and woody colored(not green). They don’t need to have sprouts, but they do need to have nodules on them. Some Ticos up in Guanacaste, CR swear by burying two cuttings a few inches deep in a crisscross style with the ends poking out of the soil. Others use one cutting and plant vertically. We have the best luck laying down one cutting horizontally about 3-4 inches under the soil. All methods seem to work. After 7-10 days with a little water, you should see spouts coming up (like in the video). Harvest a year or so after planting and enjoy!

The coolest thing about yuca is its flexible harvest time. You can leave them in for months after they’re ready. You can think of them as nature’s food storage. Just keep in mind, if they start getting around 2 years old, they may become woody and difficult to eat.