Cassava Processing – Pressure Cooking

Description

Cassava tubers are an incredible, versatile, starchy food source. It is super easy to grow and thrives in minimal and poor soils! Did you know that processing and preparing cassava is just as easy as growing it? There are many ways to prepare cassava; I’ve found this method really straightforward to get it into the kitchen. This method is for pressure cooking cassava and not making flours, starch granules, or ferments. Once cassava is out of the ground the shelf life is really short, so process it as soon as possible. Not to worry when you have a large harvest, it’s easy to store too!

You need to learn the variety you’re growing. Be sure to only dig up the same variety and process it by itself. Don’t mix varieties when you process and cook as they may have different textures and cook times. Variety names do not matter, as I cannot find any information on varieties and cook times, so just stick to your same varieties and learn as you go. I’ve heard on our island we have three varieties: red, yellow and green. But I have at least five distinctly different varieties growing right now, so that shattered that theory. Look at leaf shape, color of stem and leaves, and color of petiole and stipule. Since cassava is typically grown as a clone and not seed, genetic variability doesn’t occur. So these are direct clones someone has cultivated somewhere and it adapted and evolved into separate varieties. In simple: stick to same varieties when preparing and cooking. I like to grow a few plants in close proximity and harvest them all at the same time and re-grow a patch once harvested.

Harvest

Again, you have to learn when your particular variety is ready for harvest, write down when you planted it and write down when you obtain a satisfactory harvest. Different varieties harvest between 6-18 months. You may harvest at specific time depending on the age of tuber you want. I prefer young tubers as you can use them all and not worry about woodiness. So I harvest early.

There are two ideologies when it comes to harvesting cassava. 1. Dig the whole plant up, and 2. Dig a few tubers at a time as needed. I prefer pulling the whole plant up, and pull up multiple plants at once, and have a single large processing batch rather than doing small ones regularly. I like to minimize work and store processed goods to grab and throw together a meal rather than: harvest, process and then cook.

Yank that plant out of the ground! If you’ve prepared soil, it comes out as soon as you pull enough on the main stalk, should be easy to pull up all the roots at once. If you didn’t prepare soil and it’s growing in lava rocks, you’ll have to get down there and move around rocks until you can get the whole thing out.

If you harvest during the week of the full and new moons, the energy of the plants will be in the roots and therefore, create a more nutritious harvest. If you harvest at these times, it is also a good time to propagate as the energy is in the roots and will begin rooting right away. Working with nature!

Post Harvest Processing

  1. Separate stalks from tubers. I mulch the tops of my plants where I harvest, then I take the stalks and stick them in the ground elsewhere to propagate them. Crop rotation is important to prevent pests.
  2. At this stage the tubers should be washed to remove excess soil. Can be done in a bucket or with running water. I’ll usually use a little luffa sponge to scrub if necessary. These skins will be removed so it is not too important.
  3. Next, take washed tuber and cut it into large pieces, there are usually natural breaking points on the tubers, separate at this point and cut off rootlet ends. If whatever tool your using doesn’t cut through the tubers easily, they are woody, not edible, take them and compost them. This is where you’ll need to learn when to harvest your variety. If they are mostly woody then you are waiting too long, harvest them earlier next time. dsc_0721
  4. Grab a knife and slice lengthwise along the whole tuber. You’ll notice the flesh isn’t very thick so you only need to slice that deep.dsc_0730
  5. Stick your finger under the skin at one of the edges, sometimes you may need to use the knife and pry it up.dsc_0732
  6. Slide your finger along the sliced cut along the whole length. Don’t worry the tuber should be nice and juicy and smooth to work with. Turn tuber around the do the same along the other side of the slice.dsc_0733
  7. At this point, you’ll notice the whole skin is coming off in one piece. Continue to work it; it will come off easily in one piece. Compost that nutrient rich skin!
  8. Wash again. Bring them inside. Wow, that was easy!dsc_0750

Kitchen Work

In the kitchen comes the final part of processing. First thing to know: if your knife doesn’t cut through easily, compost it, it’s not worth the frustration!

  1. Cut everything into evenly sized pieces, we usually take one of the smallest roots and use that to size everything (if a tiny outlier exists, its not worth cutting all the larger pieces to that size). The more standardized all the pieces are, the more even the cooking. Tubers are typically cut 3-4 inches long x whatever piece is the average smallest diameter. We prefer to keep cut chunks as large as possible.
  2. When working with them check out the very center of the tuber for woodiness. If you harvest them young there’s nothing to worry about and no woodiness. If woody just cut it out.
  3. Once everything is nice and evenly cut and all woodiness removed, add to pressure cooker.
  4. Pressure cook for 5-8 minutes (dependent on variety). Once time is up, quick release, or pour cool water slowly over top of cooker to cool, so you can release the pressure as soon as possible to stop cook time. The pressure cooker is an important tool and I suggest everyone goes and finds a simple stove top cooker. It is worth it to speed up cook times of our tropical foods. Pressure cooking times starts once pressure regulator is moving and pressure is built, until then it’s pre-heating. You can boil but would probably take 40-45 minutes.
  5. Stick a fork into a cassava piece, fork should enter slowly and fully pierce.
  6. Once cooked take out and allow to dry. Now you have edible cooked cassava! This is your base for all cassava dishes. We typically freeze as much as we can at this stage for quick already processed cassava meals. We freeze them on a baking tray in a single layer and then fill into Tupperware or freezer bags once frozen. This prevents them from sticking to each other as they freeze. Once frozen they won’t stick together. We do the same for our bananas.
  7. From here, fresh or frozen, we make: fries (baked, roasted or fried), hash browns (refrigerate before shredding for best results), throw them in soups, curry, chili or anything really. Now you can utilize them as a potato and use them in any recipe calling for that. This is where cassava gets fun! Tubers do not have too much flavor and benefit from heavy spicing.
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    Fries: Bake @ 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Olive oil, sage, rosemary, salt, pepper

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    Preserved cassava products: frozen pressure cooked,  frozen hash browns. In jars: puba –  fermented cassava flour

Conclusions

Processing cassava in this manner is easy and accessible for anyone to enjoy this dense and delicious starch. This methodology allows us to use tubers in a certain way, there are other numerous ways to eat and utilize this amazing plant. My favorite method is called puba, take fresh root and mill it into a thick moist ‘flour’. From there you take it and press out all of the liquid. After pressing and it’s fully dry, you take it and press it into jars and allow it to ferment 1-2 weeks. From there you can use it as ‘bread’ and make pizzas and crusts. It’s delicious!!! Cassava is so versatile, now you too can enjoy cooking it up!

Happy Gardening!

 

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Bean Processing

Description

I will describe the process of drying and storing beans for use as dried beans or for seed. This process can be done with any and all beans. I am specifically showing lablab as an example because in my opinion this is the superior bean for a wet climate. Read more about lablab here. Lablab pods dry on the vine even in a wet environment. I’ve left beans on the vine for too long and when I’ve gone out to check them, they haven’t started decomposing and very few pests decide to get in there and eat the beans. This bean will also dry out of the pod during rainstorms and during wet humid weather, when most other beans will turn moldy and start decomposing. These reasons make lablab superior. Then to add on the nitrogen fixing capabilities, the fact that it’s a perennial, super productive, multipurpose as a food source, and the beans store well making dried beans another source of food security. Yes beans!

Harvest

First things first, you’ll need to determine what pods are worth opening up and which you can just use their pods (beans not developed). Turn them to their side to make sure they are bulging and they have beans developed. Feel them! If you accidentally harvest immature pods you may eat them sauteed or steamed, certain varieties raw.

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Bulging pods have beans developed. Mature on left, Immature on right.

Harvest beans when dry or nearly dry on the vine. (Beans will be developed, pods bulging and usually become somewhat translucent as they dry).

Post Harvest Processing

  1. If you have dry weather you can leave the pods a few days in the sun to crisp up. If you have wet weather immediately shell all beans.dsc_0665
  2. Shelling: Take the pod, grab the flatter side and pinch the tip of one of the ends and pull away from the pod, dependent on variety a large string will peel off (hence string beans). dsc_0674
  3. Then apply pressure on the bean pod and it will slightly open, then grab the sides of the pod and pull them apart. The pod will typically open as two halves showing the beans (Just like processing snap peas).
  4. With time you’ll soon discover which pods are the right age to determine the bean you are looking for. I try to only collect dried ‘colored’ beans that have already transitioned away from being green and develop their dried colors.

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    Notice some matte (dry) and some glossy (still containing moisture)

  5. Open up all beans all put them into a tray, clean as you go if necessary. (very simple tray, make sure you determine the size of your beans and get some metal screen sized so your harvest wont fall through (dont forget, as the beans dry they do shrink). I use wood and some screen and make a simple frame I can put anywhere in the sun). If you had to you could use a baking tray, but its best to have some ventilation all around your drying product.
  6. Leave in the sun and monitor so the rains never come in contact with your drying beans. Periodically come and move around all the beans for even drying. Bring inside at night.

The magic of lablab – at this stage the rains came for two weeks straight. These beans dried perfectly fine in the garage, with ventilation during non-stop rain with no access to sunlight. If weather like this comes you just have to shift around your beans more periodically, and dry times are slower, but the lablab will dry. Other beans I’ve grown have molded during these kinds of weather.

  1. Once beans are fully dry. You can move them around and even toss them together and you will know once they are fully dry, they sound like small pebbles, think of the sound of fresh green peas vs. dry beans. If in doubt allow them to dry longer. If there is any moisture it could spoil your whole batch once it’s stored.
  2. Store them for seeds or to use as dry beans for cooking. I store them in mason jars if I’m going to eat them, and I store them in plastic baggies inside of mason jars in the refrigerator if I will use them for seed. We also tend to dry our beans, cook some of them and store them cooked in the freezer. Creating that feeling of opening up a can of cooked beans without ever having to leave the property. More ways to preserve, and make life a little bit easier when there is easy to grab, quality food, when you don’t have too much time for cooking. Or in my case, too lazy to go to the store.

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    White Whippoorwill Cowpea – left. Wonder Bean ontop of Thai Soldier Long Bean – middle. Luffa ontop of Lablab – right.

Best Beans for Wet

We got 254 inches (6451.6 mm) of rain in 2018. I need a bean that can handle wet and rainfall at any time. My three favorite beans as of now are ‘White Whippoorwill Cowpea’, ‘Thai Soldier Long Bean’, and Lablab. All of these beans have been super prolific, delicious as a green bean (could be preserved by pressure cooking and canning). They all dry well on the vine, as well as in my post harvest bean processing, and all three make delicious dry beans! When you grow beans like these you have to remember not to plant too many, unless you enjoy the burden of overabundance!

Conclusions

Through this procedure you can establish food security and go full circle with your plants, from seed to seed. Most beans are very prolific and now you can store all those beans that you missed as green beans and have dry beans for soups, chili, bean dip, hummus, tofu, tempeh, bean salad, bean sprouts, or anything bean related. This also allows you to propagate from your plants as well; not only is this insuring future seed security for yourself, but also gives you adapted genetics in your specific microclimate, and well, we know Hawaii is all about microclimates. Grow them, eat them, and share them. I never need to buy beans again!

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Sure is hard to capture a photo during a dimly lit rainstorm in the garage. Lablab dried just fine!

Happy Gardening!