Tapioca is cultivated in many regions around the world. It is rather easy to cultivate this plant which has many uses especially as a food source. The tree can grow from mature woody stems and one just need to plant these on the ground. New leaves would start to grow on these mature stems after a few days. Once the tapioca plant is old enough and the tubers are ready for harvest, they are normally pulled out from the ground. The whole bunch of tubers would stick together when they are pulled out.
For some society, tapioca is a stable food and can be prepared in many different ways. Dry powdered tapioca tubers are often used as thickening agent. These inexpensive powdered tapioca tubers are easily available in most hypermarkets and convenient shops. The starch from the root extract of the plant is very suitable for making many types of cakes (kuih). It is also gluten free. Therefore, by products from this plant are often used in Vegan or Vegetarian food preparation. Tapioca can be deep fried, made into soups, stew, dumplings and cooked with meat. Crispy chips made from the tapioca roots are tasty. Apart from that tapioca can also be made into alcoholic beverages like Sakura or nijimanche (sweet beer).
However, tapioca tubers and leaves contain cynogenic glycosides which can cause acute cyanide poisoning if not prepared properly. Raw tapioca should not be eaten. The toxin found in red branched variety is less harmful than the green branched ones. The toxin levels are high during drought. If there is too much rain during harvesting, the tubers could have a tinge of stagnant pond water smell.
China is exploring the potential of cassava as biofuel. The largest cassava ethanol fuel plant started operation in Beihai, China in 2007. Cassava biofuel can in future replace our usual petroleum fuel. If this happens, then we would have a much environmental friendly alternative to the traditional petroleum fuel.
In Indonesia, dishes made from tapioca young shoots are quite popular. Since the leaves contain toxin, they should be boiled in water first before consumption. Tapioca leaves taste delicious with spicy fresh chillies. The leaves contain very little protein but have high fiber composition. The toxin effect of eating the leaves has not been thoroughly investigated by scientist. The leaves might hold the key prevent world food shortage crisis or might be effective for weight loss.