Friday, 27 January 2017

Skills Development - Essay on Cassava July 2016

The following is an essay which I wrote  on Cassava. The purpose of the essay was to document the practices of growing cassava, practice certain skills in Word such as inserting photos into a document and to retain the memory of a period in time.  ( I have copied and pasted a Word document here and I had to use other skills to recreate the document which I had in Word.)

1.   Background

Having recently started planting cassava and having little to no experience of successful agricultural practices, which  resulted in my having to eat the produce in a short period of time,  I decided to note the approach, the concepts and the results of my cassava planting. This will provide knowledge which may be shared and or preserved for copyright purposes and for conversation. Images of the harvest, the location of the plants have been included for illustrative purposes and for retaining memories of the time the activity was performed.

Cassava may be planted for retail or commercial sale locally or for export. Locally grown cassava may be available for sale in the local markets or the green grocer section of the supermarket. In these locations, the cassava is left with its skin intact. Thus the dirt from the ground is washed away and the produce is available for sale.

Cassava may also be available for sale in the frozen foods section of the supermarkets as a ready to cook item. 

Cassava may be cooked in a variety of ways, such as boiled as a side dish or for consumption as a main part of the meal or  it may be used in soups or combined with seasonings and meats and served as a side dish. I have also seen cassava chips in the shape of logs or sticks with a dip served in a restaurant chain.

At the time of taking the photo, the plants which are located  on the left have not been harvested, however branches have been removed from them in an effort to allow for more nutrients to be used in the root of the plant.  Note the spread of the branches, the size and shape of the leaves, the size of the branches

2.   Cassava Plants

An existing plant may yield:

  • New stalks or branches for replanting, 
  • A main stalk with a root which may be replanted and
  • Produce which is covered in a brown "skin" with a "white under skin" , both of which can be removed prior to cooking.   

3.   Stalks or Branches of the Cassava Plant

It is possible that the stalks or branches of the cassava plant may not be mature upon harvesting the crop.

A good indicator of the maturity of the stalks may be seen in:

  • The size of the branch, 
  • The colour of the branch and 
  • The strength of the branch. 
Many branches have green soft tips with new leaves, which are often olive in color, which are fragile.

The older section of the branch tends to be:

  • Brown, 
  • Firm,
  • Less likely to sway or break easily, except in extremely strong wind and 
  • Can be planted quite easily.

4.   Timing of Planting of Cassava initially and in successive periods

Upon planting the stalks of the cassava plants, taking into account the soil and season in the year, these plants may take a bit longer than usual to mature with produce. Hence they may take more than six months to yield produce.

If the main stalk is replanted, this may bear produce within a six month period, given the soil, weather conditions and factors of nature and man. 

However the yield may not be same year on year. It may be a  good  idea to have pictures taken of your yield and or maintain a notebook with details of your plantings.

5.   Images of the yield from cassava plants in 2016.

In the image above, the yield from two plants have been peeled, washed and bagged for storage in the freezer section. 

The size of the packages is dependent on:

  • An estimate of the number of times the cooked item will be eaten at meals,
  • The expected number of persons at meals. 
Note that some of the packages have pieces which are similar in size. These pieces will cook in a shorter time than the  larger pieces.

In the image above, the pieces have  been peeled and placed in water for washing, prior to storage.

The pieces are much larger on the whole and represent the expected yield from a typical  plant. 

Given that person’s preferences may differ, the pieces of cassava above may be used in dishes where the cassava is cut up after boiling.

6.   Eating  your produce, factors to consider

If you intend to eat the cassava which you have planted, which happens in many instances, then consider the following:

        I.          Avoiding animal fertilizers. While these are known to produce good harvests, there are many persons who prefer the benefits of peels, potting mix and mulch.

       II.          Changing your diet to include greens, bananas, plantains, mangoes, oranges and pumpkins. These skins or peels may provide a ready source of nutrients when added to your plants.  These peels break down easily and may be added several times a week to provide a steady stream of nutrition for the plants and to maintain a level of mulch around the plants.

     III.          The number of plants which you maintain. If you are the sole provider of peels and skins, then you may need to use a rotation plan to fertilise all of the plants frequently in the early stages of planting and later on in the cycle of the plant. This need to use a rotation plan may be due to the size and quantity of the peels as a day’s worth of peels and skins may not be sufficient to be placed on all of your plants. Also, over time there may be a need to develop new businesses so as to gain income from your hobby, hence selling stalks to a garden shop may be a source of revenue. However selling your produce may also ensure that you grow your business.
     IV.          Crushed egg shells (rinsed in water) may be added to the mulch, either on top of or in between the peels. This will add calcium to the soil and nourish the plants.
       V.          Grass cuttings placed around the plant will protect the roots, the stalk and the crop during periods of heavy sunshine and between watering the plants in the dry season. Since the plant may  be in the ground for at least six months, it may be wise to:
                             i.          Consider the habits of the neighbours as their insecticides, weedicides can impact upon your soil and plants, especially if you live in the lower parts of a valley.
                           ii.          Solicit grass cuttings from other persons to add to existing and other areas of your planting area. This will assist in maintaining the supply of mulch around the plant and prepare other areas for planting.
                          iii.          Purchase peels from supermarkets, hotel kitchens, restaurants, salad bars, other food places. While these peels will add to your supply of nutrients, the information on the receipts or invoices may provide input into the cost of your hobby, the frequency with which peels were added and the quality of your produce.
                          iv.          The quality of the peel and its impact upon your diet. A banana peel cut into small pieces may be spread much further than a length of the banana skin. The smaller pieces, when placed around the plant may make the skin much more difficult for an animal to eat, than the length of one banana. Raw peels add more nutrition than cooked peels.
                           v.          Use the water from cooking vegetables to water the plants. Some of the nutrients will go back into the plant.

Points# II, III, IV and V will add to the soil upon disintegration over time, will assist in the fertilization of the soil and the plant and can protect the plant from animals in the following ways:

        I.          Dogs digging up the plant to bury bones

       II.          Dogs racing around the plants while hurrying from one point to another or while playing together.

 copyright Jennifer N Bailey with contributions from other persons

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