CBI Product Factsheet: Exotic Roots and Tubers in Europe

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The European market for exotic roots and tubers is small but growing. Cassava and yams are the biggest sellers. Volumes of taro, yautia or malanga and other roots that are less well known in the European market, are still very small. The main market are ethnic food shops and restaurants, but increasing interest in exotic vegetables and stimulating consumer awareness of the culinary possibilities can help develop the market channels for exotic roots and tubers. 

This factsheet covers a number of roots and tubers that are exotic to the European market. The main varieties of which the tubers are used for human consumption covered in this factsheet are cassava (Manihot esculenta and Manihot dulcis), yam (Dioscorea spp.), taro (Colocasia esculenta), and yautia (Xanthosoma spp.). Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are covered in another Product factsheet that can be found on the CBI Market Intelligence Platform.

Roots and tubers are plants that produce starchy roots or tubers, rhizomes, corms and stems. In Europe, the most wellknown tuber is the potato (Solanum tuberosum), which grows in temperate climates. They are used mainly for human food in both fresh or processed form, but also for animal feed and the production of starch and other products. We exclude crops grown mainly for feed or for processing (for chips, starch or sugar) and tuberous vegetables like onions, garlic and beets. In Europe, these roots are usually eaten boiled, baked or fried.

Cassava (Manihot esculenta and Manihot dulcis ) is a root crop from the family of Euphorbiaceae. Also known as (or similar to) manioc, yuca, balinghoy or kamoteng kahoy (in the Philippines), mogo in Africa, mandioca, tapioca-root (predominantly in India), aypu, and boniato. Cassava are discerned into sweet cassava (Manihot dulcis) and bitter cassava (Manihot esculenta). Cassava is eaten boiled or baked, but mainly processed into flower and used for bread or porridge. In many tropical areas it is the main staple food. Cassava is grown in many tropical countries. The main producing countries of cassava are Nigeria, Brazil, Thailand, Indonesia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana and Angola.

Yams (Dioscorea spp) (French: igname, Spanish: ñame) consists of about 600 species, which can differ in size and appearance. Size can vary from 500gr to 5kg. Some examples of commercial varieties are white yam, brown yam, yellow yam, purple yam, Chinese yam, elephant foot yam. Name is similar to yam and is also known as nyami, yampi, tropical yam, true yam, greater yam, cush-cush, mapuey. Yams are grown in all tropical regions. They are predominantly eaten boiled or processed into yam flour to eat as porridge. The main producing countries of yams are Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast.

Taro (Colocasia esculenta var. esculenta; Xanthosoma sagittifolium L. syn. X violaceum), from the family of Araceae, is grown in all tropical regions. There are over 1000 known varieties. Also known as or closely related to dasheen, eddoe or eddo, Chinese tayer, (old) cocoyam, kalo, keladi, kulkas. In Suriname, taro is known as aroei by the native Indians, and is commonly known as Chinese tayer. The variety known as eddoe is also called Chinese tayer.

Yautia (Xanthosoma spp.) is closely related to taro and also a member of the Araceae family, also known as taro tannia, malanga, chou caraïbe, macabo, new cocoyam. The genus contains about 50 species, mainly grown in tropical America. Nowadays it is also grown in West Africa as a replacement for yams, and in the Philippines. 

LEI Wageningen UR
Michel Peperkamp
Piet Schotel
CBI Ministry of Foreign Affairs