Plantains are also known as cooking bananas or green bananas. Humans can only metabolize the starch found in plantains by heating them before consumption
Even when plantains are fully ripe, only a small proportion of the starch they contain is converted to sugar, making them inedible raw. It is only by heating plantains that the starch can be broken down by the enzyme amylase during the digestive process.1 Raw plantains have a bitter taste similar to rhubarb, but when cooked they taste like potatoes or carrots, depending on how well they have ripened.
Boiling, grilling, and baking are all suitable methods to cook plantains. In tropical and subtropical regions, plantains are a staple food, much in the same way potatoes are in Europe.
Based on their level of ripeness, plantains can be cooked in many different ways. Unripe plantains are usually cooked and puréed whereas ripe plantains are steamed, fried, baked, grilled, or roasted. Dehydrated plantains can be ground into flour, which in turn can be used for baking cakes and pastries as well as for thickening sauces and soups.
The best way to peel green plantains is with a knife as their skin is much thicker than dessert bananas. For ripe plantains that have turned yellow, you can simply cut the tip with a knife and peel by hand.
In general, plantains are a great addition to all potato recipes. Plantain chutneys are also delicious. In addition, the blossoms of these bananas can be prepared as vegetables, which is particularly popular in Asian cuisine.
A favorite dish in Latin American countries is Patacon (tostón in Spanish), which is made from slices of fried plantains. Kelewele or kelawele, a popular side dish in Ghana, is also made from fried plantains that are sliced or cubed. Seasoned with spices, it is quite a spicy dish. Aloco (also known as alloco or aloko) is a typical West African dish in which the plantains are cooked in palm oil. In restaurants on the Ivory Coast, they are eaten with an onion and tomato sauce. Matoke (matooke) is a traditional Ugandan dish. Wrapped in banana leaves, the plantains are soaked in water for several hours before mashing. Served with peanut sauce, matoke makes for a great side dish option served with meat or fish dishes.
From growing up to 40 cm long to having square edges, plantains come in many varieties. They are sold in large supermarkets, shops specializing in exotic fruits and vegetables, as well as foreign food stores. They are usually sold indivdually and not as a bunch. When buying plantains, they should be firm; however, don’t be put off by an unsightly outer skin as this does not mean the plantain is of lesser quality.
The import of banana blossoms during the summer months is quite irregular. In this case, it is best to contact an exotic fresh fruit distributor
Plantains will last up to 8–10 days at room temperature, while warmer temperatures accelerate the ripening process. When stored between 7 to 13 °C (44.6 to 55.4 °F), plantains should keep up to 3 weeks. The outer peel of the plantain stays green even when ripe, although some creamy yellow or black spots may appear. Fully ripened plantains can be peeled, packed individually, and stored in the freezer.
Plantains are low in both fat and protein. Almost a quarter of the carbohydrates found in plantains are starch, most of which are not converted to sugar when the fruit ripens.1 On the other hand, plantains are a rich source of vitamins and minerals with noteworthy amounts of B vitamins and vitamin C as well as magnesium and potassium. See the nutrient tables
Plantain flour is obtained from grinding dehydrated plantains and is a good substitute for conventional wheat flour for people on a gluten-free diet, especially for those who suffer from celiac disease. Plantain flour is also an effective food substitute in vegan cooking and works well as a binding agent in vegan (egg-free) and gluten-free cake baking, even without the proteins that help set the dough.
In comparison to dessert bananas, plantains contain a significantly higher percentage of resistant and indigestible starch, which is why they need to be cooked by heat before eating. The positive effects of resistant starch are well known. As the small intestine cannot digest resistant starch, or at most only partly digest it and reabsorb it, bacteria in the large intestine ferment the fiber. This promotes healthy intestinal flora that protects the intestinal walls from cellular changes, thus supporting the cell barrier function. Resistant starch is also effective in regulating blood sugar levels. It is important to take into account the amount of resistant starch we eat as part of a balanced and nutritious diet that is based on whole grains, legumes, and bananas. From a raw food perspective, plantains should not be eaten raw as consuming too much indigestible starch at once can cause stomach pain.3
Plantains grow in tropical and subtropical parts of the world. As of 2016, plantains were recorded growing in 52 countries globally.
Cultivation and harvest:
Plantain yields achieve only a third of what dessert bananas produce (20.6 t/ha); however, under favorable conditions yields of up to seven times the amount of the 7.5 tons produced per hectare in 2016 would be possible. The difference in yield is attributed to the fact that plantain farming is largely subsistence farming, whereas the dessert banana is driven by a strong export industry.
Ecologically, plantains cause little harm to the soil since they don’t need any pesticides to treat disease or banish pests
Plantains are also known as cooking bananas or green bananas. In Spanish, they are referred to as plátano de macho and in Africa as platan or plantan or plantanas. In Brazil, they are known as banana-da-terra. Plantains belong to the species Musa × paradisiaca, of which there are several varieties. They are a staple food in many tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas, Asia, and Africa, much in the same regard as potatoes are in Europe. Uganda, one of the top plantain- and banana-producing countries in the world, has a consumption rate of 172 kg per capita, making the plantain account for a fifth (18 %) of total household caloric intake.2
Literature - Sources:
- aid Infodienst (editor). Exoten und Zitrusfrüchte (Exotic and citrus fruits). Fourth edition. Bonn;2014. Druckerei Lokay e. K. Reinheim.
- Wikipedia (German Language). Plantains.
- UGB (Unabhängige Gesundheitsberatung [Independent health advising]). Resistente Stärke. (Resistant starches)