You are probably most familiar with tapioca as the edible, squishy, ball-shaped pieces that come in tapioca pudding or sometimes in “bubble tea” drinks. But what is this weird food item, and where does it come from? Is there a tapioca tree that grows little tapioca pieces instead of fruits like apples or oranges?
Believe it or not, but tapioca is a starch that comes from the root of a type of plant known to most people as “cassava”! Even though tapioca is so often seen as the “pearls” in teas or puddings, it also has other functions. For example, many people use the tapioca made from cassava in a flake or powder form to help with thickening foods! Tapioca is good for this job because it can hold up over a long cooking time (such as making soup) and it has almost no flavor of its own, so it doesn’t drastically change the taste of the dish its added to.
In order to make tapioca from cassava root, the root is processed using special methods that make it safe to eat, and then turned into the form of tapioca desired, such as flakes, powder, or pearls!
Look through some tapioca recipes with a grown-up, and try to find a recipe for something you’d like to made together! Think about which kind of tapioca you’d be the most interested in working with, such as the powder or the pearls. If you can’t find one of them in your regular grocery store, try smaller specialty markets or places with imported foods.
What is your favorite thing about working with or eating the tapioca? Is it the taste, or the texture? Or maybe you like knowing that this neat food came from the root of a plant!!
Sources & links
"tapioca." Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009. Merriam-Webster Online. 29 December 2009 "tapioca." Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 29 Dec. 2009 Filipic, Martha. “Cassava roots source of tapioca.” Chow Line. 27 Nov. 2006. Ohio State University. 29 Dec. 2009 "tapioca." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 29 Dec. 2009