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!