In the harsh climate and thin soil of the world’s tropical regions, starchy, sustaining foods such as potatoes and grains often grow poorly. The staple crop in these regions is manioc, or cassava, a plant producing edible green leaves and large, starch-rich tubers. Some varieties contain lethal amounts of cyanide that must be cooked out, leaving a dry and nutritious flour. When that flour is further processed into a pure starch, the result is organic tapioca starch. It’s most commonly sold in small balls, or pearls, and cooked into pudding, but the pure starch is also a potent thickener.
If organic tapioca starch is hard to find in your area, you can simply purchase tapioca pearls — not presweetened pudding mix — and grind them in a blender or spice grinder. The organic tapioca starch’s nutritional values are identical to those of pearl tapioca. As a purified starch, it’s over 88 percent carbohydrates by weight. Since it’s typically used in quantities of a tablespoon or two, this represents only a modest portion of your daily totals.