Object: Manioc press

E/1967/32/3
Manioc press
Unknown Lowland Amazonian tribe
South America: possibly Colombia
Unknown date
Materials: Plant fibers

Manioc, also called yuca or cassava, a woody shrub native to South America, is extensively grown by native groups of South

America and Africa for its edible starchy root. This root, which somewhat resembles a sweet potato, is a major source of carbohydrates for these groups despite containing dangerous levels of a cyanide-like substance called prussic acid. Careful preparation is required to eliminate the poisonous substance from the tuber prior to eating. This substance, while potentially harmful to humans, helps to naturally protect the plant from pests and insects. Many South American tribes use a press similar to the one shown above

to help eliminate the poison from their manioc. In South America, manioc is typically processed by peeling and grating the tuber and then rinsing, straining and pressing the liquids out until the remaining material forms a flour-like powder. The manioc flour is then typically used for making breads, though today manioc flour (also sometimes called tapioca flour) is becoming popular as a gluten-free food source and thickener.

The following video shows the process of harvesting, processing, and using manioc in Guyana.

Similar manioc presses can be found in the Peabody Museum, the National Museum of the American Indian, the National Museum of Ethnology in Japan and others.

[Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

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