Tapioca is essentially a flavourless starchy ingredient, or fecula, produced from treated and dried cassava (manioc) root and used in cooking. It is similar to sago and is commonly used to make a milky pudding similar to rice pudding.
Purchased tapioca comprises many small white spheres each about 2 mm in diameter (although larger grain sizes are available). These are not seeds, but rather reconstituted processed root. The processing concept is akin to the way that wheat is turned into pasta.
These tapioca pearls are made mostly of tapioca starch, which comes from the tapioca, or bitter-cassava plant, Manihot esculenta.
In other parts of the world, the bitter-cassava plant may be called "mandioca", "aipim", "macaxeira", "manioca", "boba", or "yuca" and "kappa" in the state of Kerala in India.
Cassava is native to South America. However, it was later planted in parts of the Middle East and India. The balls are prepared by boiling for 25 minutes, until they are cooked thoroughly but have not lost pliancy, then cooled for 25 minutes. The pearls have little taste, and are usually combined with other ingredients, savory or sweet.