The super-yellow cassava video clip translation
In the Northeastern of Brazil, it is known as “macaxeira”.
In the South, it is known as “aipim”. But, it
has many other names: “maniva, pão de pobre,
macamba, uaipi, pau de farinha”. This is our "mandioca"
(now on cassava, in english). The word has a Tupi origin
and refers to this delicious, nationally praised root, which
we are, proudly, the biggest world producer.
Although this root can be converted into many tasty dishes,
it falls behind when the subject is nutrition because of
its low content of proteins and vitamins. Now, two new varieties
pledge to correct these deficiencies. They are the so-called
the super-cassava and the yellow cassava.
The research, which resulted in the super-cassava and
in the discovery of the yellow cassava, was carried out
in the Biology Experimental Station of the University of
Brasília, a green oasis in the heart the Republic’s
capital. It took 30 years of Prof. Nagib Nassar’s
work, a man in love with Brazil. Since he arrived in our
country, in 1974, the Egyptian geneticist has turned cassava
fields of the four corners of the country up-side down.
Today, at 77, he can tell where each of his plants came
from. He keeps talking about them in his Portuguese, which
he learned at the hard way. “One more wild cassava
species of Pernambuco state. I collected her in Serra Talhada”,
And each plantlet has a special quality. “He is
very good, he is resistant to an insect known as “broca
de caule”, said Nagib (sorry, there
should be an more appropriated technical term in English
for this pest, but did not had time to search for it). Some
species are extinct in their natural habitat, but through
Prof. Nagib’s hands they once more can be part of
the National flora. Others surprised us because of its robustness,
as one specimen that grows like a true tree and reaches
up to 10 meters in height. “This is interesting. Wild
cassavas come from tall trees to dwarfs. Some does not go
over 30 cm tall”, says Nagib.
Prof. Nagib’s search is focused
on wild cassavas. During the process of natural selection,
the cassava we are used to eat lost its nutritious properties,
proteins for example. An entire team of dietitians, biologists,
and agronomists from the University of Brasília,
agreed to face the challenge of, together with Prof.
Nagib, identify the qualities of each new species.
It was worth it! They found a wild variety that had kept
its original properties.
“Protein analyses of this new species showed that
the content reached 9%. I could not believe my eyes when
I finished the analyses”, says Nagib.
Reproducing the process of pollination, which is carried
out by bees in nature, Prof. Nagib crossed two species:
the common cassava, good for eating but with a maximum of
2% of protein, and the wild one, with 9% of protein but
inappropriate for human consumption. It worted! The result
was a super-cassava!
“We found 5% protein on it, compared to 1.5 or a
maximum of 2% in the regular cassava”, reports Prof.
Nagib. Moreover, interfering in the plants cell
(??), the scientist was able to improve the content of protein
even further, reaching 7.5%.
And there was another fantastic trait in this new variety.
In its leaves, they found lutein, an antioxidant that protects
our body against cancer. The super-cassava is not a transgenic
plant. Instead, it is a rescue of a cassava from our past,
from the pre-European times. A native Brazilian inheritance.
Embrapa is releasing the variety, but it can be used to
prepare flour only.
For this reason, Prof. Nagib persisted
in his search for a new species that could be eaten. This
was how he came across the yellow cassava, the newest star
of the Experimental Station. In reality, we had set apart
about 15 specimens. We started our analyses and among these
15, one of them stand out”, tell us the biologist
Osmindo Pires Júnior.
The scientists analyzed the content of carotenes in that
variety. These compounds, once in our body, are converted
in vitamin A. The result surprised once more. The yellow
cassava contained 2.4 mg of carotenes per kg. Eating half
kilo is enough to supply our daily needs of vitamin A. In
the market, the yellow cassava is relatively unknown, but
those who do know it also liked it, without knowing that
it is so rich in carotenes. “I like it better than
the white cassava. It is tastier and I found it to be drier
when cocked. When I found both of them, I always pick the
yellow one”, confess Prof. Vanda Rocha.
“Its interior is yellowish, a deep yellow. Around
here, we always can tell apart the yellow cassava. The regular
cassava is not like that. It is white all over”, explains
the supervisor of a food marked, Pedro Paulo de
But, the yellow cassava needs to pass the final test, the
pan test. After cooking, we soon see the distinctive color
“It combines the nutrition value with a good taste,
the two together”, says proudly Prof. Nagib.
Humm, it is indeed tasty when fried!