As two of the most popular root vegetables, it is unsurprising that cassava and potatoes are often confused with each other. Both are starchy, tuberous vegetables that are used in a variety of dishes around the world. However, there are also some key differences between the two, including their species, texture, taste, cooking time, nutritional value, and health benefits. So, let us find out the similarities and differences between these two vegetables, and explore whether one holds an advantage over the other.
What is Cassava?
Cassava (Manihot esculenta), also known as yuca or manioc, is a kind of root vegetable that comes from the tropical regions of South America. As it is one of the most resilient crops, cassava plays a pivotal role as a primary staple food in numerous developing nations, meeting a significant portion of their daily carbohydrate requirements.
The cassava root is cylindrical, tapered and elongated in shape. The flesh is covered in the brown-coloured, thick and rough rind. To access the flesh, you can peel off the rind easily by creating a length-wise slit at first.
Cassava is consumed in many different ways, but primarily by being boiled. But there's more to it – cassava plays a vital role in producing tapioca starch, a key player in the creation of those beloved boba pearls that add joy to our beverages. Surprisingly, that boba tea you indulged in today might have been your introduction to the world of cassava, all without you realizing it!
There are two major types of cassava, sweet and bitter. Both kinds need to be cooked properly to be eaten, as they contain forms of hydrogen cyanide.
What is Potato?
While an introduction to potatoes is hardly necessary for anyone beyond the age of five, the potato (Solanum tuberosum) remains arguably the most universally recognized and cherished vegetable across the globe. It is another root vegetable native to South America which is an even more popular source of carbohydrate.
Potatoes are incredibly versatile in terms of shape, size, colour, or usage. They can be as small as a grape, or bigger than a tennis ball. Moreover, they can be white, yellow, red, and even purple in terms of colour.
Again, in terms of cooking, you can use potatoes in a myriad of ways. They can be prepared through boiling, roasting, frying, and even mashing. They are an essential ingredient in countless dishes of many different cultures, ranging from comforting mashed potatoes to crispy French fries.
What are the similarities between cassava and potatoes?
Firstly, both belong to the category of root vegetables, rich sources of carbohydrates. Additionally, they share a culinary versatility that allows them to be boiled, fried, roasted, or mashed, depending on what the dish demands. Thirdly, while their flavour profiles differ, there is a basic similarity in their earthy, nutty undertones.
What are the differences between cassava and potatoes?
Despite the similarities, cassava and potatoes vastly differ from each other in terms of species, shapes and colours, flavour, etc.To begin with, even though both are root vegetables, cassava and potatoes come from two completely different species and families. Biologically, cassava falls under the Euphorbiaceae family (the spurge family), whereas potatoes belong to the Solanaceae family, known as the nightshade family.
Secondly, cassava and potatoes are also very different in terms of visuals. Cassava is cylindrical and tapered in shape, whereas potatoes are generally much smaller and rounder. However, there are a few exceptions here. Potato varieties like sweet potatoes are often similar to cassava in terms of shape.
Again, another thing to consider when it comes to visuals is the colour of the vegetables. Potatoes are found in many different colours all around the world. However, they are mostly known as having light-yellowish to red skin and white insides. On the other hand. Cassava has a thick, dark brown rind that covers its white flesh.
Also, another big difference between cassava and potatoes is their flavour profiles and textures. Even though both have nutty and mildly sweet flavours in general, cassava is much nuttier and sweeter compared to potatoes. Moreover, cassava has two prominent varieties- sweet cassava and bitter cassava.As the name suggests, sweet cassavas are more desirable than their bitter counterparts. Raw cassava, especially the bitter variety, contains high levels of two cyanogenic glucosides, therefore, it needs to be cooked thoroughly before being consumed. Otherwise, it can cause cyanide contamination.
Speaking of thorough cooking, cassava and potatoes also contrast in terms of required cooking time. Due to its denser texture and higher starch content, cassava demands a lengthier cooking period compared to potatoes. Boiling cassava typically takes around 35-40 minutes, in contrast to the 15-20 minutes typically needed for potatoes.
Which one is better for your health?
In order to answer this question, let us take a look at the nutritional contents of cassava and potatoes. Firstly, 100 grams of cassava contains 59.7 grams of water, 38.1 grams of carbohydrates, 1.38 grams of protein, 0.28 grams of lipids, 1.8 grams of dietary fibre, and 160 calories.
On the other hand, 100 grams of potato contains 79.2 grams of water, 17.5 grams of carbohydrates, 2.05 grams of protein, 0.09 grams of lipids, 2.1 grams of dietary fibre, and 77 calories.
If we compare the two, both cassava and potatoes are great sources of carbohydrates and dietary fibre. However, cassava contains almost double the amount of carbohydrates and energy than potatoes. Therefore, if you have diabetes or if you are looking to lose weight, perhaps, potatoes will be better for your health.
Again, both potatoes and cassava are gluten-free and high in resistant starch and dietary fibre, therefore, they are great for your gut health.
All in all, both cassava and potatoes are in general great for your health if consumed in moderation. The determination of which is better hinges on your individual health considerations and lifestyle choices.
In conclusion, cassava and potato both are delicious and great options in terms of fulfilling your daily carbohydrate needs. From their origins to their roles in cooking, these root vegetables bring unique qualities to our meals. Because of their differences, cassava and potatoes add their distinct flavours to the world of food, showing that both have their place in our diverse diets.