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Grown In Dominican Republic – Yuca

Grown In Dominican Republic – Yuca

Yuca (pronounced jooka in the Dominican Republic) is also called manioc or cassava root. It is a favorite of Dominicans everywhere. This tuber is fairly easy to grow and can be prepared in many different ways.

Wax covered Yuca / Manihot esculenta
Wax covered Yuca / Manihot esculenta

The botanical name for Yuca is Manihot esculenta, not to be confused with yucca which is another plant entirely. The plant was originally from brought South America to the Caribbean islands. It is a woody evergreen shrub ranging in height from 6 to 8 feet tall. Ground, the leaves can be used in herbal remedies and the new flowers can be eaten.

A field full of yuca behind some platyano plants in Salcedo / Hermanas Mirabal.
A field full of yuca behind some platyano plants in Salcedo / Hermanas Mirabal.

Yuca is picked by hand the roots or tubers remind me of a giant, long, hard potato mixed with a deformed pithy carrot. The entire shrub needs to be pulled from the ground and the tubers removed. There are usually many tubers on a single plant. This root is 2 to 3 inches around and can be from 6 to 12 inches (I’ve seen longer) long. It can even look like a kid size, deformed baseball bat. One plant can produce many tubers. The tubers of the sweet yuca are a little smaller than the bitter variety. Yuca grows fast, is plentiful, and can grow from the roots left in the ground or by placing one of the tubers back into the hole where the plant was pulled (just like a potato).

That is one big yuca..or is it a baseball bat?
That is one big yuca..or is it a baseball bat?

Preparing Yuca

The two main types of Yuca are bitter and sweet. The bitter needs to be rinsed well to remove the poisons and the sweet can just be boiled or eaten raw if so desired.

The tuber is brown on the outside and has a white to cream colored hard flesh on the inside. They don’t have a long shelf life so make sure to put them in the fridge and use them within a few days. As soon as the white flesh is exposed to air it will start turning black. Usually the roots that are purchased in the stores are covered in wax or frozen.

Wax covered yuca.
Wax covered yuca.

Peeling is a real chore (you can cheat by putting them in the microwave for a few minutes or boiling with the skin on for a short time as this can make the peeling process a little easier). First make sure you have a sharp knife, as this tuber is quite hard and difficult to peal. Since it is so hard cutting it into smaller sections makes the job easier. As you peel the sections make sure to keep the peeled sections in water so they don’t turn brown. Peel the brown outside layer and the thin layer that is between the skin and the flesh. I find it is easier to boil the tubers in salted water for a short time to soften them up a bit, and then peel them. You can remove the core if it is yucky and stringy, if not leave it.

The sweet yucca, after it is cooked, can be eaten as is. I like to pan fry the cooked pieces and get them a little crispy. They are also great cut into strips and deep fried like french fried potatoes. They can be used like a potato and are good in stews and soups. These starchy tubers are an important ingredient in Sancocho. Yuca can be used to thicken up soup just as a potato does. Get some yuca recipes here.

Fresh unwashed yuca in Mercado Modelo
Fresh unwashed yuca in Mercado Modelo

Casabe

The original inhabitants of the island, the Taino Indians, made a bread using the bitter yucca root. Casabe or Cassava bread is made much the same way then as it is now. It is a Dominican cuisine staple and is a much-desired accompaniment for many typical Dominican dishes. With the commercial preparation of this traditional bread it is again becoming an everyday and readily available food. In the past this bread was made by the locals and distributed only locally by the homemakers that worked hard to make this labor intensive staple. This was a way to make money for their families. Now it is made commercially and is readily available throughout the island. It is even shipped to USA and elsewhere.

To make the Casabe the bitter yucca root must be prepared correctly, as the root is poisonous (containing hydrocyanic acid). The outside brown skin and the hard white layer underneath are pealed away. The core is also discarded and only the inner white flesh is used. The inner white flesh is grated using guayos. Then is soaked. The juice must be squeezed out either in a long canoe type vessel called a matapee or wrung out in a towel to remove the poisonous starch. It is then dried slightly in the open air. Then it needs to be pounded and sifted to make a flour. This flour is then spread on a large, heated, flat round iron pan or mold about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Then it is baked atop a specially shaped oven, called a buren griddle, until set using moderate heat. It is then flipped over and cooked until done and left to dry in the sun until it is crispy.

Casabe bread is high in vegetable fiber, starch, calcium and Vitamin C. It has a very low fat content and is also low in protein. It is can be eaten by persons who are gluten intolerant. This thin, hard round bread can keep for many months without getting stale or moldy. It is used to accompany many Dominican dishes. It is a must have with Asopao/ Soup and Sancocho (I like to just drop it in and let it get soft). It is great baked with a little green (olive) oil and salt. It can be used as a tortilla chip and dipped into just about any dip one could imagine because of its subtle flavor. Slap on some jam and use it like bread. Toast it and use it for dunking in coffee, tea or cocoa. There are so many ways to use this versatile food.

Casabe bread packaged
Casabe bread packaged

Interesting Yuca Facts and Legends

*Tapioca is also made from the cassava flour, which is also known, as tapioca flour. The pearls and starch of tapioca come from this plant.

*Cassava flour (tapioca flour) is commonly used as a food thickener and is also used as a binder in pharmaceutical tablets.

*Yuca is also the name given to rock music in Venezuela

*The extract from the plant has been used with surprising success on arthritis and rheumatism sufferers in herbal remedies/ Hierbas Medicinales

*The bitter variety may be used to treat scabies, diarrhea, and dysentery. Manioc flour may be used to help dry weeping skin.

*The plant has already been used to eradicate brain tumors in laboratory rats.

*If you’re on a diet 1/4 cup of yuca (considered a starchy vegetable) can count as a starch/ grain serving (according to the
South Beach Diet plan). It is a type B carb falling between brown rice and a baked potato.

*Use starch from the yuca the same way you can use cornstarch

*In old times it was added to wet laundry before ironing as a clothing stiffener.

*Dominican empanadas, deep-fried dough pockets stuffed with meat, are made with yucca flour.

*Panesico are baked logs of yucca flour and pork fat and are considered a specialty of the Cibao region.

*Bolas de yuca are deep-fried balls of yucca flour.

*Jojadra are powdery ginger cookies made of yucca starch.

Patron Saint Celebrations

Fiestas Patronales de la República Dominicana / Celebrations of the Patron Saints of Dominican Republic

Patronales/ Patron Saints. Every town and village in Dominican Republic has it’s own patron saint. Each town has a celebration for their saint. These celebrations usually cover an entire weekend or more with a party, music and just getting together of the inhabitants of the town in the local park or gathering area. It is a time of sharing with the neighbors and another excuse for having a party. Not that Dominicans need an excuse to have a party or a good time.

Here is a list of Patron Saints and different celebrations and what town celebrates that saint. The dates are a general reference and can change year to year depending on the dates the government sets. Try to visit a town during their celebrations. You will be so happy you did, even if you are not Catholic.

Festival San Miguel in Santo Domingo

Enero / Janurary

Festival El Santo Cristo de Bayaguana Offering of the Bulls

1. Santo Cristo de los Milagros of Bayaguana – ofrenda de los toros/ The Offering of the bulls (More information about this tradition go to our page on Town Traditions)

21. Nuestra Señora de La Altagracia o Virgen de la Altagracia. Celebrated in San José de Ocoa, Monte Plata, Villa Altagracia, Paraiso y los bajos de Haina. More information on Altagracia

Febrero / February

2 Virgen de la Candelaria patron saint of San Carlos, in Santo Domingo and Sabana Grande de Boyá.

11 Nuestra Señora de Lourdes patron saint of Peralta in Azua

16 San Elías Barón del Cementerio/ The Barron of the Cemetery.

Marzo / March

3 y 4 San Benito de Palermo celebrated in Guayabal, a providence of Azua

4 y 5 Procesión Romana-Higüey a procession to the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia in Higüey,starting at the Obelisco in La Romana

8 Miércoles de Ceniza/ Ash Wednesday

17 Damballah is symbolized by un arco iris/ Rainbow

19 San José this saint is celebrated in the towns of Restauración in Dajabón, Río Grande in Puerto Plata, Villa Vásquez in Prov. Montecristi, San José de las Matas in Prov. Dajabón, Yamasá in Prov. Monte Plata, El Valle in Sabana de la Mar. In Azua this patron saint is celebrated with carnival like festivities.

Abril / April

8 Amancia Pérez patron saint of Pueblo Arriba, Baní. This is the death of this saint who was the keeper of the San Juan Bautista en la Cofradía/ Saint John the Baptist in the Brotherhood

14 y 15 La Dolorita patron saint of Los Morenos, Villa Mella. She is a saint who bestows miracles and helps the people. It is celebrated by hundresd with salves, atabales, rezos y cantos/dance, prayers and song.(to learn more about salves, atables and afro dominican music)

Mayo / May

1 San José Obrero celebrated in Villa Jaragua in Prov. Bahoruco and Ensanche Ozama in Santo Domingo

3 San Felipe Apostol patron saint of Puerto Plata.

13 Nuestra Señora de Fátima celebrated in Villa Sinda in Prov. Montecristi, Galván in Prov. Bahoruco, Arenoso in Prov. Duarte and Hondo Valle in Prov. Samaná.

15 San Isidro el Labrador celebrated in Castillo in Prov. Duarte, Luperón in Puerto Plata, Las Caobas in Santiago Rodríguez, CLavelLina y Uvilla in Prov. Bahoruco, EL Llano in Elías Piña, Santé y La Enea in Prov. La Altagracia.

21 Espíritu Santo celebrated in Cotuí and many of the rural communities throughout Dominican Republic. (Here is a little information on this music)

18(?) Santa Rita de Casia celebrated in Juan Barón a Prov.of San Cristóbal, Sabana Perdida in Santo Domingo

30 San Fernando Rey patron saint of Montecristi.

Junio / June

11 San Bernabé patron saint of Villa Mella.

13 San Antonio de Padua patron saint of Bonao in Prov. Monseñor Nouel, Guerra in Prov. Monte Plata, La Victoria in Santo Domingo, Villa Rivas in Prov. Duarte, Monción in Prov. Santiago Rodríguez, Miches in Prov. El Seibo

22 Corazón de María patron saint of Chaquey Abajo in Cotuí

29 San Pedro y San Pablo patron saint of San Pedro de Macorís; Las Salinas in Prov. Barahona, El Cercado in Prov. San Juan de la Maguana, Fundación de Peravia in Prov.Peravia.

30 San Pablo Apóstol patron saint celebration in Villa González

Septiembre / September

7 Nuestra Señora de los Remedios patron saint of Azua, Cabral in Barahona, El Limón in Jimaní, Naranjo in San Juan de la Maguana

14 Exaltación de la Santísima Cruz patron saint of Mao in Valverde

24 Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes/Las Mercedes is patroness of the firefighters and the Patron Saint of the Dominican People. More information, picture and video of Mercedes and the celebration.

29 San Miguel Arcángel / St. Michael, the Archangel is the patron saint of the Dominican armed forces. He is the Captain of the Celestial Legions. Combating the devil he leads the forces of heaven in their triumph over the powers of hell. Celebrated in the Santo Domingo town of San Miguel at the Iglesia San Miguel. History of the important Festival San Miguel.

Octubre / October

1 San Francisco patron saint of Bánica

4 Nuestra Señora del Rosario patron saint of Barahona

12 Nuestra Señora del Pilar patron saint of Sabana de la Mar and Cevicos.

14 Santa Rosa de Jesús patron saint of Elías Piña.

15 Santa Teresa de Avila patron saint of Comendador in Elías Piña

24 San Rafael patron saint of Boca Chica, Capotillo, Palma Herrada y los 21 in Moca, San Rafael del Yuma, Tamboril, Estancia Vieja in Santiago Rodríguez, Villa Tapia y Quita Sueño in Cotuí, Guayacanes in Valeverde

29 San Judas Tadeo patron saint of Escondido in Baní

Noviembre / November

1 Todos los Santos patron saint of Maguana in San Juan de la Maguana

21 Nuestra Señora de Regla patron saint of Baní

Diciembre / December

5 Santa Bárbara patron saint of Samaná

8 Inmaculada Concepción patron saint of Cotuí, Monte Grande in Dajabón, Estancia Nueva in Moca, Sombrero in Baní, Oviedo in Pedernales, Ramón Santana in San Pedro de Macorís

13 Santa Lucía patron saint of Las Matas de Farfán and El Peñón in Barahona

18 Virgen del Amparo patron saint of Polo in Barahona and Esperanza in Valverde

27 San Juan Evangelista patron saint of Salcedo

To see a map with all the Dominican Republic Provinces (Prov.) listed.

Virgen de la Altagracia

Virgen de la Altagracia/ Virgin of the Highest Grace. Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia, Patrona de La República Dominicana.

The country’s official patron saint and Queen Protector of the heart of Dominicans.

The altar inside the Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia in Colonial Zone
The altar inside the Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia in Colonial Zone.

The Story

The story of Our Lady de Altagracia dates back to when Spain first colonized the island of Hispaniola. Two men, Alonso y Antonio de Trejo, brought a painting of the Virgin to Hispaniola from their home in Placencia, in the region of Extremadura in 1502.

The legend states that the image of the Virgin mysteriously disappeared from the house of the brothers Trejo. The painting later reappeared in an orange bush. The location of this bush is where the first church of Higuey was built.

Now thousands of devoted visitors make the trek here to deposit offerings and to ask favors of the Mother of Christ. Dominicans pray to her for miracles and cures and for intercession for whatever troubles them. Las Noches de Vela/ the Nights of Prayer is celebrated the night before Altagracia Day.

The painting of the Virgen de la Altagracia
The painting of the Virgen de la Altagracia

The painting (shown here) of the patron saint of Dominican Republic that is found in the Basílica Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia located in Salvaleón de Higüey. It is said to have been painted in the late 15th century in Spain. It was mysteriously delivered by a shrouded old man who dropped the painting and disappeared. This painting shows the scene of the birth of Jesus. The frame is made from Dominican gold and inlaid with fine enamels, precious stones and jewels. The painting has been completely restored.

Basílica Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia located in Salvaleón de Higüey
The Basílica Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia located in Salvaleón de Higüey

See the picture slideshow of The Basílica Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia) located in Salvaleón de Higüey.

The Miracle

Another miracle story is about how Dominican soldiers appealed to the Virgin to help them win victory over the French in the 1691 battle in La Limonade, near Cap-Haitien in northern Haiti. They won the battle.

Virgen de la Altagracia was crowned the spiritual mother of Higuey by pontificate of Pius XI in August 15, 1922. The ceremony was held in Santo Domingo at the Puerta del Conde. It was declared that Día de la Altagracia celebrated on January 21st would be a National holiday by the President of the Dominican Republic, Doctor Joaquin Antonio Balaguer Ricardo. Many important people of the Catholic Church attended this ceremony.

Virgen de Altagracia art work
Virgen de Altagracia art work

This celebration is now a blend of African religions and Catholicism. Dominicans recite prayers, play African influenced music, sing hymns and dance.

English: “The hour is, then, causes so that we swear on the foot of this Basilica, in the presence of the Delegate of his Sanctity, His Eminence the Cardinal Jose Humberto Quintero, who from today and onward we will work together by the good of the Mother country and the union and the concord of the national family”

Spanish: “La hora es, pues, propicia para que juremos al pie de esta Basílica, en presencia del Delegado de Su Santidad, Su Eminencia el cardenal José Humberto Quintero, que desde hoy en adelante trabajaremos juntos por el bien de la Patria y por la unión y la concordia de la familia nacional” proclaimed Balaguer, when giving the Basilica to the Ecclesiastical authorities.

See our picture collection of the Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia located in Ciudad Colonial.

The procession through the streets of Colonial Zoe to honor the Patron Saint Altagracia.
The procession through the streets of Colonial Zoe to honor the Patron Saint Altagracia.

Did You Know?

*1 in every 12 Dominicans are named Altagracia in honor of the patron saint.

*Every year more than 800,000 people make the pilgrimage to the Basílica of Altagracia in Higuey.

*Pope John Paul II visited the Basilica in Higuey when he came to the island January 25, 1979.

See the dates of all the Patron Saint celebrations throughout Dominican Republic