Tapioca Pudding: The truth uncovered

By on November 1, 2001

You ask, what exactly is Tapioca? Yes, it is a type of pudding. Everyone knows that. But really, what are those clear gel-like circles within the creamy substance? No one knows. Think about it, or ask around, guaranteed you will get the same answer: It’s just pudding.
I was determined to find out. Tired of the ridiculous answers I was receiving, I decided to look into this mysterious dessert.
First, I consulted Swiss Miss and Jell-O packaging. This was like a punch in the face. Still no clues and still no conception of what I had been eating for all these years.
Disappointed and annoyed I fled the grocery store; it was just another dead end in my search for the true identity of tapioca. But who and where would I find such privileged information? It was at this point that I tapped into my college research skills. I thought to myself, why not crack open a book for a change?
Grateful of the fine library facility here at Quinnipiac and a little tool I called the Internet, I found what has been kept a secret from us for so long. So saddle up partners, here is the answer to that question that I know has been burning inside of you as much as it has for me.
Tapioca is the starch from a cassava root, or yucca plant. What is a cassava root?
The cassava root happens to be native to the West Indies and South America and has multiple uses. The fibrous root can be used as a laundry starch, an alcoholic brew or as a thickening agent in puddings, soups and juicy pies.
Budi Acid Jaya, a popular starch producer located in Indonesia uses the cassava roots to make raw materials used in toothpaste, crackers, paper and textiles.
It is believed that the early Mayans were the first to harvest the cassava root. But possibly the most astounding piece of information that I found concerning Tapioca is that the cassava roots have traces of cyanide in them! The clever Mayans figured out how to extract the poison with blow darts while leaving the remainder to eat. That means don’t try this at home kids. Leave it to the professionals.
Never again will I toss a finished tapioca pudding snack without saluting the cassava root. Don’t ever forget those ever-resourceful Mayans.


About Kristen Daley