Yucky Yucca

The sharp, sword-like leaves of the yucca plants in the winter landscape are not to be trifled with. More than one unwary gardener has come away with wounded hands from these beautiful but spiky plants. But this isn’t the only danger.

Yuccas lend quite a bit of interest in the otherwise dull brownness of the wintertime, as many of the plants are not only evergreen, but even variegated with more than one color.

But who could have guessed that they could be edible? This week I entertained friends who avoid eating gluten, and I substituted tapioca starch for the flour in my cornbread. It turned out quite good.

As I studied the label of the tapioca starch, I discovered that it is also known as cassava or manioc root, or yuca. I misread that as “yucca.” Before I realized my mistake, I wondered if some of the ornamental yucca in the garden could be ground into flour for baking.

Well, it turns out that these plants are not as edible as I thought they were. First of all, there is a big difference between “yuca” and “yucca.” Yucca is not the same as the yuca root from which tapioca flour is made. The word “tapioca” comes from the Portuguese “tupi” (juice) and “yuca” (or cassava root, native to Brazil).

The root is somewhat edible, but not as readily as the yuca root. Yucca root is better made into soap, and in fact tastes soapy if it is not boiled or baked to remove the toxic saponins it contains.

How could one little doubled letter have turned out to be such a drastic difference? Yucca is poisonous unless cooked, while yuca is a wonderful ingredient in gluten-free cooking. After a very fuzzy encounter with boiled cattails, I have learned to do a lot of research before trying a new wild food. What was supposed to taste like corn on the cob resembled “cat on the cob” instead.

“Research twice, cook once” is my version of the old saying of “measure twice, cut once.” This motto thus spared our family of the possibility of saponin toxicity from mistaking yucca for yuca. Yuck!

It is not unusual in the religious world to mistake poison for spiritual food. After all, Satan himself told Eve the same thing God told her; with the notable exception of a tiny word – “not.”

“The Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely;  but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die’” (Genesis 2:16, 17, NASB).

One tiny three-letter word was added. “The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die!” (Genesis 3:4).

Well, the rest is history. And what a way to start man’s history, with a tiny, poisonous change.

Do people do that today, making tiny, deadly changes to God’s words? Consider how people read 1 Peter 3:21 according to their preconceived ideas. Here is the King James Version of a phrase in the passage:

“The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us…”

The rest of the passage tells how baptisms “saves us.” But rather than take it at face value, some will read it as if the “w” is changed to a “t.”

“….baptism doth also NOT save us…”

Could this be as toxic as saponins in yucca root? I don’t want to find out.Y

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