Due to the way plantains are used, you may be wondering if they’re not actually undercover vegetables. Well, as it turns out we’ve got a story for you.
Plantains are similar to bananas, and some folks even believe that “plantain” is another name for bananas. In fact, these two are different (yet related) species and are used very differently.
Plantains are one of the most interesting foods you can have. Although they closely resemble bananas, they’re nowhere close to them in terms of taste, texture, and of course, the usage.
Is plantain a fruit or a vegetable?
The plantain is essentially a fruit. It belongs to the family of bananas, specifically the Musa genus. However, it is mostly used as a vegetable because of its higher starch content and low sugar.
The best part is, plantains can be used in all their forms. You don’t have to wait until they become ripe to eat them. They are usually found in green and yellow colors.
Out of these, the green ones are raw and are mostly used after boiling and frying. The yellow ones are the ripe fruits used for making chips, stir-fries, and a wide variety of side-dishes.
When they turn almost black, they become soft and sweet. You can eat them on their own at this stage.
Why are plantains used as vegetables ?
Despite not being an actual vegetable, plantains are used just like a vegetable. They’re a lot like potatoes, in a way. Boil them, mash them, fry them, make chips, whatever you like.
The main reason is the high starch content, paired with a very low sugar content. The only time plantains are sweet is when they’re black and starting to soften.
Plantains are a staple in savory dishes in the Caribbeans, and Central and South America. If you’ve ever visited one of these regions you’ll know their cuisine is vastly different from Western and American cuisine.
It’s exotic and spicy and definitely something to try when you get the chance. While they do have a lot of vegetables of their own, they incorporate a lot of fruit into their dishes.
Where do plantains come from?
Plantains are native to Southeast Asia. These are tropical fruits that are most popular in the Philippines, Thailand, and other Southeast countries.
But the great news is, they can be found all over the world and throughout the year. These are one of the most essential food items in the Caribbean kitchens, and are also known in the Southern states of USA.
Each batch of plantain has its exporting country printed on the box. The main exporters is Ecuador, while the top producer is Cameroon.
What does a plantain taste like?
As we already discussed, plantains don’t taste like bananas at all. In fact, they are not even peeled that easily.
They are starchy and mildly sweet, just like sweet potatoes, and can’t be eaten raw in their green and yellow stage. But when their skin turns almost black, you can enjoy them as a delicious, smooth and sweet dessert.
The taste of green and yellow plantains is slightly firm and bland, mostly used for making chips and fried wedges.
These snacks have a similar texture and taste like potato chips and fries. These snacks are seasoned using a wide range of spices and condiments like garlic powder, Italian herbs, pepper, salt, cinnamon, etc.
How to know if a plantain is ripe
There is another popular misconception that a plantain that has turned black has gone bad and can’t be eaten. But the truth is, it is actually a ripe plantain which tastes extremely sweet and delicious.
Although it is not that easy to peel even at this stage, it is comparatively easier than peeling a yellow or green plantain. So, if your plantain has turned black, don’t throw it in the trash. Enjoy it on its own.
Also, you can’t find these ones at the grocery stores. You will only get green and sometimes yellow plantain. But the good thing is, you can ripe the yellow ones very easily at home.
All you need to do is, throw them in a paper bag and leave them at room temperature. They will become soft and ready to eat in a couple of weeks. You can also speed up the ripening process by keeping them in sunlight.
How to cook plantains
There are a lot of things you can do with your plantains. They can be fried, boiled, grilled and roasted.
You can slice and add them directly to your curries and stews. In fact, the boiled and mashed plantains can be used as a baby food and can also be given to the elderly.
But the most popular and loved form of plantains is their fried chips. These lip-smacking chips are popular all over the world. They even taste better to the mainstream potato chips.
Here are some great ways to cook all kinds of plantain.
1.Boil green plantains
To boil the green plantains, wash them nicely and peel them. Peeling them is a bit hard because they are in their unripe form. Chop their ends and cut into thick slices.
Now, boil them in slightly salted water for about 30 minutes or until they become tender. Once done, remove them from heat and then peel them. This way, you can peel them easily.
You can use the boiled plantain in salads, snacks, curries, soups, and stews. Just add some basic spices and drizzle lemon juice over the top to make a healthy and yummy snack. You can also have them in your breakfast alongside some omelette.
2. Fry the yellow plantains
This is perhaps the best way to eat plantains. For this, wash and peel them using a sharp knife.
Now, thinly slice them either lengthwise or into round discs. Heat some vegetable oil and fry them until they’re crisp and golden.
Drain the excess oil on the kitchen towel and toss them with some salt, pepper, garlic powder and your chips are ready to eat.
You can also store them in airtight containers for up to 3-4 days.
3. Add the overripe plantains to your smoothies /pancake mix
When your plantains have turned black, and you’re in no mood of eating them, throw them in your smoothies. They will result in a thick, creamy, sweet, and tasty smoothie.
You can also make scrumptious plantain pancakes. Just mash them using a fork before adding to your pancake mix.
Other tips for using plantains
- You can store the plantains at room temperature for weeks. They ripe very slowly. But if you want to speed up the ripening, put them in a paper bag near a window that receives enough sunlight.
- Plantains can also be frozen and can be used for up to 12 months. For this, chop their ends, peel them, put them in zip lock bags, and throw them in your freezer.
- Plantains are also dried and processed into a fine powder, often known as banana flour. It is a gluten-free flour that is mainly used for feeding babies.
There you have it! We hope you get all your answers.
If you’ve got any other food curiosities be sure to check the related articles below, we’re always adding more food facts to make your life that much easier.