What's for Lunch? Yucca.

I walked into the reception area outside of the church administration offices, just to check in and see what everyone's plans were for the day.  The gal that does the cleaning was behind the desk, whacking away at some big pieces of yucca.

"Is it the season for yucca?" I asked.

"Yes," she said, as an accountant looked on.  The accountant was a little worried about the whacking and peeling, suggesting the technique being used was a dangerous.  Well, we all have our own knife techniques, right?

The peeled yucca was placed into a wide aluminum pot.  It needed a good washing, and then it would go over the fire.  "Do you have garlic?" someone asked.  "Garlic and salt - I like my yucca with nothing more than garlic and salt."

When produce is in season, the staff members in the church offices are eager to share the fruits from their trees or the vegetables from their little home gardens with their co-workers.  Yucca is meant to be shared.  It must be prepared shortly after it is harvested.  It is ruined if you try to keep it.

Later, at lunch, everyone was invited to have fresh, hot yucca.  If you like potato, you will like yucca.  You can fry it and serve it with pork rinds and lime.  You can make soup with it.  But yucca purists boil it in salty water with garlic, and eat it just like that.

One time I was with a delegation at one of the Salvadoran Lutheran Church's agricultural sites. The agronomist taught us how to plant, grow and harvest yucca.  The plant can grow from stem cuttings, which are placed horizontally in the ground.  Each nodule produces a stem which grows tall like a tree, sending tubers down into the soil.  The tubers are the part you eat.  When the plants are tall and the tubers are numerous and thick, then it is time for harvesting.

Harvesting yucca is hard work.  First you have to dig deep all around the tubers so that you can lift them up without breaking them.  It is easier to whack off the tall tops of the plants and then to dig.  Once the tubers are pulled free, the stems are cut off and reserved for planting.
After enjoying the delicious yucca at work,  I decided to get some at the store and to make it myself.
 I used a very strong potato peeler and was able to peel my yucca without dangerously wielding a knife.  I did have to put some energy into whacking the long tubers into shorter pieces.   I set the yucca to boil, adding garlic and salt to the water.  It took about 45 minutes for the yucca to get soft

Once the yucca breaks apart, it is ready to eat.  There is a small vein down the center of each tuber which is easy to remove once the yucca is cooked (just pull it and then chew the remaining yucca off, leaving only the skinny vein behind).  I really like plain boiled yucca with salt.  My husband reminded me that I am Norwegian and can easily eat 5 potatoes boiled and mashed with fish (plukfisk, anyone?).  Apparently boiled yucca is a little boring for some people.  To make yucca fries, simply take the boiled yucca, cut it into strips and fry it in oil.

Yucca is a sustaining food.  It is high in fiber, with vitamin C and small levels of potassium and folate.  Mostly, it serves as a good source of carbohydrates - energy to sustain hungry kids and farmers who spend long hours in the hot sun.


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