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Friday, February 6, 2015




The plantain or "cooking plantain" is the fruit of  the Musa Paradisiaca, a cultivated variety of banana plant which is intended to be consumed only after cooking or other processing, rather than raw.  Another name for the plantain is "potato of the air".    The dessert banana or just "banana" in the U.S. is usually eaten raw and  used as a dessert.   Plantains are a major food staple in West and Central Africa, Central America, the Caribbean Islands, and coastal parts of South America.  Plantains fruit all year round making them a reliable all season staple food.

The difference between Plantains and Bananas:

Plantains:                                                        Bananas:

Starchy                                                            Sweet
Used as a vegetable                                         Eaten as a fruit
Longer than bananas                                       Shorter than plantains
Thick skin                                                       Thin skin
May be green, yellow, or black                       Green when not fully ripe, yellow when ripe


Plantains can be used for cooking at any stage of ripeness, and ripe plantains can be eaten raw.   The plantain tastes different at each stage of development.  Plantains can be steamed, boiled, grilled, baked, or fried.

Plantains match well with:
bacon, black beans, butter, cinnamon, nuts, pineapple, rum, sour cream.


The plantain is a carbohydrate source.  The low fat content of the plantain couple with its high starch content makes it a possible food for geriatric patients.  It may also be a food alternative for people suffering from gastric ulcer, celiac disease and the relief of colitis.  Cooked green plantains, as well as cooked green bananas, have a low glycemic index.  Plantains contain very little beta-carotene.  The vitamin C content of plantains is very similar to those of sweet potato, cassava, and potato.  

 My Story:

Growing up Italian in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn in the 50's and 60's I did not see very many plantains. It was not until I started to work in the supermarket that I learned about these "cooking bananas".    When they would first come in from the supplier they would be nice and green and firm.  That was the best time to sell them.  That is given that you have the ethnic population that uses plantains.  After not very long the plantain begins to turn yellow as it ripens.  In all the stores that I worked in it was hard to sell yellow plantains.  We would reduce the price, but to no avail.  I never quite understood that.  Yellow plantains are sweet and good.  The plantain can be used at all stages of ripeness.  They people just would not buy them.   Now over-ripe bananas you can sell all day long.  We even had special bags that we would use to sell the over-ripe bananas that had a recipe for banana bread right on the bag. 


Plantains are available all year long.

Selecting and Storing:

Since plantains can be used at all stages of ripeness, choose the ones you prefer.  The green are more starchy and bland  and can be cooked like a potato.  The yellow are sweeter. Since plantains are firm, they are less likely to bruise.   You can buy green and let it ripen to the stage you want.  A black plantain is only ripe and is usable, but it should still be as firm as a firm banana.  Avoid plantains that are cracked or moldy.  Plantains will last a long time at room temperature.  Discard if the plantain becomes mushy or it it is black and very hard.  


The greener the plantain the harder it is to peel.  A black plantain will peel like a banana.  To peel a green plantain cut off both ends and score the skin lengthwise in a couple of places.  Generally green or greenish plantains are hard and starchy.  They require a fairly long cooking time and can be boiled or mashed. They are excellent thinly sliced and fried like potato chips.  Yellow ripe plantains can be prepared the same way and will have a creamy texture and light banana aroma. Half ripe plantains are excellent grilled.  Black ripe plantains are excellent sauteed and will cook longer without falling apart so as to develop the flavor.  

So, there you have Plantains!  Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.

Simple but good.

Baked Plantains: 

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large plantain skinned and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup guava jelly
1 tablespoon rum
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
Grease a baking sheet with oil and arrange plantain slices on it
In a small saucepan melt guava jelly and rum over medium heat and season with salt and pepper.
Pour the mixture over the plantains and bake for 15 - 20 minutes.

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