Deep fried cassava root pieces, served with hogao. What is YUCA? Yuca (not Yucca) is a root crop. Yuca is Manihot esculenta, and in some countries, it is called cassava, manioc, macaxeira, mandioca or aipim - a woody shrub native to South America of the spurge family, Euphorbiaceae. Although a perennial plant, cassava is extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible starchy tuberous root. Cassava is the third-largest source of food carbohydrates in the tropics, after rice and maize, providing a basic diet for nearly one billion people. It is one of the most drought-tolerant crops, and so, is grown in the Northern Territory of Australia. In Colombia, it is peeled, boiled, then deep-fried into delicious strips of starchy chips.