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Written by Sara Franklin, independent writer, multi-media producer, co-author of the forthcoming book, The Manioc Route: Exploring the Foundations of Brazilian Cuisine with Teresa Corção

Maybe you’ve had stewed yuca in a Cuban restaurant or pounded fufu in a West African joint. Tapioca—you’ve seen it in gluten-free breads, in the pearls in your bubble tea, or, of course, in pudding (the molecular gastronomy crowd can’t get enough of the stuff and its magical stabilizing powers!). And if you’ve been to Brazil (or a Brazilian restaurant, for that matter), you have, no doubt, come across pão de queijo—those chewy little cheese breads—and sprinkled farofa on your meat, fish, rice and beans. But did you know that all of these foods come from a single plant?

Manioc root—also commonly known as cassava, yuca and tapioca—is originally from the Amazon region of Brazil, and today is the fifth most important staple crop in the world (maize, rice, wheat and potatoes are ahead on the list).