The cassava is a rather popular crop in African and some South American countries. Cassava flour is no different. It is loaded with a very high percentage of carbohydrates. Given that it's rather common in some countries for example Nigeria and Brazil, the product offers a range of indigenous recipes that have been around for quiet a while.The cassava milling process is rather simple and for the longest time had been done by hand, or rather through traditional means. With modern technological advancements however, the process has been mechanised. The process may vary depending on where the milling is done; the following process however is a generalised description.The process basically comprises of 8 steps. I will explain both the traditional and mechanical ways of undertaking each step.
1. HARVESTING OF THE CASSAVA
The cassava roots are harvested, chopping off the woody part of it. The roots cannot be stored for more than two days to avoid interfering with the preceding step. The harvesting is mostly manual.
2. PEELING AND WASHING
Traditionally, the roots are hand peeled leaving the relatively softer part of the root for further processing. Removing the outer peel helps avoid complications in other stages later on.After peeling off the cover skin, the roots can now be washed to remove any dirt. They are then immersed in water taken out for the next step.
In large factories, the cover skin is not removed. The root is soaked in water to remove the dirt then processed whole. The roots are washed to remove the outer skin leaving part of the inner part of the skin.The washing is done using a mechanical washer, which usually contains brushes that thoroughly scrub the root to remove dirt. The same can also be done using a rotary drum.
3. RASPING/ PULPING/ CRUSHING/ GRATING
This can be by hand or by mechanical means.By hand, the roots are let to ferment and later pound to a fine pulp. The pulp is washed with water to remove the starch. Mechanically, the roots are sliced, subjected to grating or crushing similarly resulting into a fine pulp. It is usually using either a hydraulic or engine driven rasper.
The pulp is mixed with water to remove the starch. From there then pulp is then screened or filtered to retain the remaining amount of the washed out pulp.The washing and screening may be done separately; in cases where it is combined the process is known as wet screening.
The water from the mash is mechanical removed. However, the moisture is not usually fully eliminated and further drying is required.
This is the final drying. It is done through evaporation in ovens or out in the sun. The flour cakes are laid out in the sun until they crumble and are then further spread on trays to ensure complete water removal.Oven drying entails spreading the wet flour in brick lined ovens with iron galvanised plates till fully dry.The moist flour can also be dried using mechanical driers. This is mostly done in large factories.
7. CASSAVA FLOUR MILLING
The dried flour is then milled to refine it further to fine particles suitable for consumption.
8. PACKAGING AND STORING
This marks the end of the process. The final product is packaged and stored preferably in a dry area.
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