Plantains! : Banana’s Starchy Cousin

sweetplantains1A banana is a banana. It’s sweet, portable and healthy. Not much more. A plantain, on the other hand, is a shape-shifter, its usage changing with every gradation from green to yellow to black.

To the untrained eye a plantain could easily be mistaken for a banana. It looks and smells like a banana, but if you ever bite into a raw plantain you’ll know it’s not!

Sweet plantains are a staple food of the Caribbean West Indies.  They are a common thread that is deliciously shared amongst almost every Caribbean Island nation.

So, why are they so popular in Caribbean cuisine? Plantains are versatile and very abundant. They are always ready for cooking no matter what stage of ripeness and are used in all different dishes from appetizers to desserts. It is a versatile fruit that eats like a vegetable.  Plantains can be prepared fried, mashed, boiled, stewed, stuffed, poached, grilled, roasted or baked.

These jumbo cousins to the banana are good for you too. Plantains are low in fat and sodium with no cholesterol. They’re high in carbohydrates and are a great source of potassium, magnesium, fiber and vitamin C.

So, what do you do with them?caribbean-twice-fried-plantains-recipe-photo-420-FF0309LATINA05

*Unripe plantain—can be boiled and mashed with a little butter like potatoes; or slice them thin and fry them up for plantain chips, grate them and make are nice for incrusting pan fried fish.

*In between stage—Steam and eat with poached fish. Or try a Puerto Rican favorite and make some tostones: slice them thick, fry them, smash them and fry them again… yum!

*Sweet ripe plantains—Fry, or boil and mash.

*Over ripe—the sugars are concentrated and fruity tasting; great for desserts and caramelizing or as the key ingredient in a  fritter or pancake.

*Plantain Leaves. Plantain and banana leaves are used interchangeably. The leaves are used to wrap around poach, steamed or boiled foods.

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Intrigued? Next time you are grocery shopping take another look at the giant tropical fruits, usually poised and waiting for purchase right next to their one-trick cousins. Because despite the fact the banana is a staple in most shopping carts, its starchy cousin is the family’s winner of the genetic lottery as far as the kitchen is concerned.

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