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How To Cook Plantains

How to cook plantains -There is so much unsureness about plantains. Often, people tend to have them mixed up. I was raised eating them in their different stages, so come along with me, as we talk about this.

How to cook plantains

Plantains are often referred to as cooking bananas because they need to be cooked before you eat them. They may be green, yellow, or very dark brown depending on the level of ripeness.

Although plantain is a fruit it is more used like potatoes than bananas, so don’t treat them like fruits—treat them like vegetables!

The History

Not so much is known about the history of plantains. However, from the little resource available, it was gathered that they could be traced to as early as 500 B.c it is known to have originated in the islands of Southeast Asia (Malaysia and the New Indonesia).  However, it is said to have been introduced to Madagascar through trading by Asian and Arab merchants during the sub-Saharan trade boom.

Plantains arrived in Africa during the first millennium AD. It is believed to have been brought by Malaysian people that settled in Madagascar at the time, the Arabs or Indians who traded and settled on Africa’s East Coast. It is now one of the most common food in Africa.

In Africa, Plantains coupled with bananas, yams, and other food crops became a significant component in the wealth, growth, and development of the Bantu Kingdom of central and southern Africa around 1500 AD, and up to date, it is still a prominent staple in Uganda and the rest of the former Bantu region.

Green, Yellow, Or Black

To start, I will like to justify the fact that there is only one kind of plantain. However, it can appear in three colors, depending on its age. The order is green, yellow, then black.

The green plantains contain more starch; when they are cooked, they tend to have a  soft texture and a neutral flavor. On the other hand, the ripe ones can be eaten raw because the starch has been converted to sugar making them sweet, although they are not easily digestible in their raw state. Hence, the need for cooking is inevitable.

How To Cook Green Plantains

The green plantains can be prepared in the same way you will make your Potatoes. You can boil them, mash them, and fry them. It is rich in starch, and it’s not sweet, but as it ages, the starch becomes converted to sugar.

The green ones have a savory quality that makes you think twice about using them in desserts. However, they can be used to make tostones (cut into rounds, fried, mashed, and fried again), they can also be steamed just like potatoes, and you can also make it into crunchy chips or baked

Green Plantains

How To Cook Ripe Yellow Plantains

The second stage is the Ripe yellow plantains which are also known as the Platanos Maduros. At this stage, they are lower in starch, and they become sweet because the starch in them has been converted to sugar. At this stage, the plantain can be used to make sweet fried plantains. They are also used similarly to potatoes and can be fried, baked, boiled, or mashed.

Ripe plantains

How To Cook Black (Overripe Plantains)

Finally, we also have the black plantains which are aged or over-ripe. At this stage, the Plantains are at their sweetest, and because they are aged, they become soft and are slightly mushy to touch.

This over-ripe plantain is not suitable for boiling or steaming, though you can fry them, however, I personally don’t like to use this for frying because it tends to absorb more oil at this stage. If you really want to fry them at this stage,  I will advise you to use a very tiny amount of oil or butter to shallow fry them until they are slightly browned and caramelized on both sides.

The Over-ripe plantains are most suitable for baking and pancakes – You can see how I used them to make plantain cake here or my favorite breakfast pancakes here.

Over-ripe plantains

Difference between Bananas and plantains:

  • Yes, it’s true that plantains and bananas look alike. It’s just like two siblings who look alike, from the same parent but never the same.
  • In size, plantains are usually larger while bananas are smaller.
  • In taste, bananas are sweet because they have more sugar content. However, plantains having a higher starch content tastes almost like raw potatoes in their green form while the ripe plantain tastes sweet because the starch has been converted to sugar. However, the is still entirely different from the bananas.
  • When it comes to texture, plantains are firmer than bananas.
  • Plantains are sturdier than bananas and they have thicker skins that is why you can’t easily peel them the way you would peel bananas.

Plantain leaves

Can we really talk about Plantains without talking about the leaves? Plantain leaves play a very important role in most traditions. Like the African and Asian cultures.

They are used as plates for several traditional meals.  The leaves add a delicate aroma to meals. This aroma stimulates appetite when meals are cooked in the leaves or served hot over it. The leaves and they can be found in most Asian stores in the states. In Africa, it is readily available fresh from most backyards.

Plantain leaves look a whole lot like banana leaves. However, they are larger and more durable. The leaves are usually lightly smoked over an open fire in order to increase their toughness, intensify the flavor it adds to meals, and prolong their storage lives.

Nutritional Information

  • Plantains are a good source of vitamin c (higher than bananas). This vitamin c helps the body fight against infections and harmful oxygen-free radicals.
  • It is rich in dietary fiber. In fact, it helps to reduce constipation because it contains the amount of dietary fiber the body needs for a bowel movement.
  • They are richer in vitamin A than bananas. Vitamin A helps vision, and it helps to enhance skin complexion.
  • They are rich in vitamin B6-complex, (pyridoxine). This helps in the treatment of neuritis, and anemia.
  • It contains a reasonable amount of folates, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamine.
  • They also provide the body with essential minerals such as iron, magnesium, and phosphorous.
  • Fresh plantains are rich in potassium – A mineral that is lacking in most diets.  Potassium is an essential component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure by countering the adverse effects of sodium.

You may also like to know:

  • Plantains are a close relative of bananas but they are starchier and therefore, there is a need to cook them.
  • They will only fruit once during its season after which the tree is cut off in order to give room for the smaller budding plantain tree. Likewise, they will only flower once, and all the flowers grow in separate bunches: A couple of these bunches will become fruits.
  • Plantains flourish well under tropical moisture-rich, humid, low-lying farmlands.
  • When the plantains are still green, the pulp is hard, and the skin is stiff. On the other hand, the ripe yellow plantains have a softer pulp

I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I had fun putting it together. I will be happy to know the other ways you like to use Plantains!

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