Learn more about Plantain
Ripe plantains at market.
Musa × paradisiaca
Plantains are bananas that are generally used for cooking, as contrasted with the soft, sweet banana varieties (which are sometimes called dessert bananas). Plantains tend to be firmer and lower in sugar content than dessert bananas and are commonly used when green or underripe and therefore starchy. Plantains are a staple food in the tropical regions of the world, treated in much the same way as potatoes and with a similar neutral flavour and texture when unripe. They are grown as far north as Florida, the Caribbean, the Canary Islands, Madeira, Egypt, and southern Japan or Taiwan and as far south as KwaZulu-Natal and southern Brazil. The largest exporter of plantains to the United States is Colombia. It is assumed that the Portuguese Franciscan friars were responsible for the introduction of plantains to the Caribbean islands and other parts of the Americas. The Spaniards, who saw a similarity to the plane tree that grows in Spain, gave the plantain its Spanish name, plátano.
 Plantain Flowers
Plantain will flower only once, and all the flowers grow at the end of its shoot in separate bunches. Only the first few bunches will become fruits. Those that do not fruit are used for cooking, often chopped and fried with masala powder. In Vietnam the flower is used in salad. In Cuisine of Laos, banana flower is typically eaten raw in vermicelli soups.
Traditionally plantain leaves are used like plates in several dishes, such as Venezuelan Hallacas, while serving South Indian Thali or during sadhya. They are also used to stimulate appetite as a fragrant smell is given off when hot food is placed on top of the leaf. In Honduras and Colombia, these are usually used to wrap tamales before and while cooking.
 Plantain Shoot
The plantain will only fruit once. After harvesting the fruit, the plantain plant can be cut and the layers peeled (like an onion) to get a cylinder shaped soft shoot. This can be chopped and first steamed, then fried with masala powder, to make an excellent plate.
 Plantain as food
The rootstock which bears the leaves is soft and full of starch just before the flowering period, and it is sometimes used as food in Ethiopia; the young shoots of several species are cooked and eaten.
Plaintains can be used for cooking at any stage of ripeness, and very ripe plantain can be eaten raw. As the plantain ripens, it becomes sweeter and its color changes from green to yellow to black, just like its cousin the banana. Green plantains are firm and starchy, and resemble potatoes in flavor. Yellow plantains are softer and starchy but sweet. Extremely ripe plantains are black, with a softer, deep yellow pulp that is much sweeter than the earlier stages of ripeness.
Plantains in the yellow to black stages can be used in sweet dishes. Steam-cooked plantains are considered a nutritious food for infants and the elderly. Ripe plantain is used as food for infants at weaning: it is mashed with a pinch of salt and is believed to be more easily digestible than ripe banana.
The juice from peeling the plant can stain clothing and hands, and be very difficult to remove.
 Dried flour
Plantains are also dried and ground into flour; banana meal forms an important foodstuff, with the following constituents: water 10.62, albuminoids 3.55, fat 1.15, carbohydrates 81.67 (more than ⅔ starch), fibre 1.15, phosphates 0.26, other salts, 1.60. The sugar is chiefly sucrose.
Plantain fruit can be brewed into an alcoholic drink.
After removing skin unripe fruit can be sliced (1 or 2 mm thick) and fried in boiling oil, to produce chips. This preparation of plantain is also known as 'tostones' in some South American countries. Tostones in Puerto Rico are twice fried patties, as you will see below. In Cuba, the thinly sliced chips are referred to as 'mariquitas'. In Ecuador and Peru they are called "chifles" with a thicker variant named "patacones". Chips fried in Coconut oil and sprinkled with salt is an important item in sadhya (a vegetarian feast) in the state of Kerala in India. The chips are typically labeled 'Plantain Chips' if they are made of green plantains that taste starchy like potato chips. In Honduras they are called tajadas. If the chips are made from sweeter fruit, they are called 'Banana Chips'.
After removing the skin, the ripened fruit can be sliced (3-4 mm thick) and pan fried in plantain oil and sprinkled with salt to produce Maduros. In Ecuador they are also eaten baked in the oven. Some places, as in Puerto Rico, do not add salt. Maduros are a delicacy in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica (although just called plantain) and the Dominican Republic. In Western Nigeria fried sliced plantains are known as dodo, and in Cameroon, they are known as missole.
In Venezuela, fried ripened plantain slices are known as "tajadas". They are customary in most typical meals, such as the Pabellón criollo. The host or waiter may also offer them as "barandas" (guard rails) in common slang - as the long slices are typically placed on the sides of a full dish, and therefore look as such. Some variations include adding honey or sugar and frying the slices in butter, to obtain a golden caramel; the result has a sweeter taste and a characteristic pleasant smell.
In Panama, "tajadas" are eaten daily together with steamed rice, meat and beans, thus making up an essential part of the Panamanian diet.
By contrast, in Nicaragua, "tajadas" are fried unripened plantain slices and are traditionally served with fried pork, or on their own on green banana leaves, either with a cabbage salad or fresh cheese.
On Colombia's Caribbean coast, "tajadas" of fried green plantain are consumed along with grilled meats, and may be considered almost the dietary equivalent of the French-fried potato of Europe and North America.
 Tostones / Patacones
Tostones are twice-fried plantain patties. Plantains are sliced in 4-cm (1.5-in) long pieces and fried in oil. The segments are then removed and individually smashed down either by hand or with a tostonera to about half their original height. Finally, the pieces are fried again and then seasoned to taste, often with salt. In Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, the tostones are often dipped for about a minute or less in water seasoned with garlic salt. In some South American countries, the name 'tostones' is used to describe this food when prepared at home and also plantain chips (mentioned above), which are typically purchased from a store.
While tostones are generally made using green plantains because of their lower sugar content. Some Tostone recipes are also made using yellow (ripe) plantains. However, when tostones are made with ripe plantains they are not pressed flat and are referred to as "Amarillas" in the Spanish islands.
In Venezuela, a yo-yo is a traditional dish made of two short slices of fried ripened plantain (see Tajadas) placed on top of each other with local soft white cheese in the middle (in a sandwich-like fashion) and held together with toothpicks. The arrangement is dipped in beaten eggs and fried again until the cheese melts and the yo-yo acquires a deep golden hue. They are served as sides or entrees.
Plantains are used in the Ivory Coast dish aloco as the main ingredient. Fried plantains are covered in an onion-tomato sauce, often with a grilled fish between the plantains and sauce.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
 Plantain as an Herbal Remedy
Plantain is commonly used in herbal remedies to treat a variety of health conditions. Depending on the techniques used by a traditional practitioner of alternative medicine, plantain is used topically as a cream or infused oil to relieve insect bites and rashes, or consumed internally as a tea or herbal extract to aid with mucous discharge.
 External links
- Plantain research at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
- Botanical.com: Plantain Fruit
- Plantains vs. Bananas
- Herbal Remedies that use Plantain
- Oke, O.L., and J. Redhead, Dr M.A. Hussain (1998). Roots, tubers, plantains and bananas in human nutrition. Rome, Italy: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Informartion Network on Post-Harvest Operations (INPhO), 198. FAO code: 86, AGRIS: SO1, ISBN 92-5-102862-1.
- Plantain chips
- Plantains con Crema Baked plantains topped with cream and berries
- Caribbean Tostones Recipe
- Recipe for Plantains and other Honduran Foods
- Visual Cookbook of African Foods African recipes illustratedfr:Banane plantain