What looks like a banana but does not taste like it? Your answer should be cooking bananas, which are popularly known as plantains. Plantains are usually larger than bananas; they are a banana cultivar and are part of the genus Musa. Like the banana, plantains are native to Southeast Asia, but they are now being cultivated all around the world.
Unripe plantains are usually green, as they ripen, they become yellow and finally turn to black when they become overripe. Since they come from a genus whose fruits are usually used for cooking, plantains are a favored ingredient in many dishes and recipes around the world. Plantains taste different when compared to a banana, but they can be a great substitute if you want to reduce your intake of sugar.
What do plantains taste like? Plantains are better described as bland and starchy, not so different from yuca root. Ripe plantains are slightly sweet; as they get riper, their taste becomes closer to banana but with a slightly different flavor.
A banana can be enjoyed raw, but plantains can’t be eaten raw until they are ripe. Unripe plantains are edible if you cook them, the taste is not sweet. The color of plantain skin will change to black as it ripens, and the sweet taste will become more pronounced.
When plantains are cooked, their sweetness becomes more pronounced. There are several species of plantains and not all plantains can be eaten raw; some of them have to be cooked before they are edible.
Nutritional Benefits of Plantains
Plantains are a great addition to a healthy diet; they are a good source of fiber, healthy vitamins, and starchy carbohydrates. Plantains contain a high amount of carbs, so they should be eaten moderately. However, they are a good source of antioxidants and plant compounds including flavonoids and polyphenols that are great for the body.
Antioxidants protect cells in the body from free radicals that cause oxidative stress in the body. In some parts of the world, unripe plantains are processed into plantain flour. A study carried out in 2015 proposed that one can make baked cookies healthier by replacing 10 percent of wheat flour with plantain flour.
Plantains contain potassium, which is great for the heart. Potassium helps the regulation of blood pressure by balancing sodium. Some people might have their blood pressure increase when they eat foods that are high in sodium. Many people living with high blood pressure have been advised to add plantains to their diet, so it can balance out the sodium in their body, regulating blood pressure.
Vitamin C is important for the immune system. A cup of plantains provides the body with 25 percent of the recommended daily value for vitamin C. Plantains are also a good source of vitamin A, which also helps to regulate immune function and has anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial for the body.
One cup of plantains provides the body with about 0.29 mg of vitamin B6. This special vitamin does wonders for mental health. In pregnant women, it might be able to help reduce the symptoms of morning sickness. It can promote heart health by reducing homocysteine in the body.
Consuming plantains and getting that supply of vitamin B6 can also help the brain function well and reduce cognitive decline. Plantains supply the body with fiber, which is famous for helping the body with digestion. It adds bulk to digested food, helps it move easily in the digestive tract, and facilitates bowel movement.
Culinary Uses of Plantains
In some parts of Africa, plantains are roasted and enjoyed with roasted peanuts. Plantains can be boiled or fried. The best way to get the nutritional benefits out of plantains is to boil them.
You can also get unripe plantains, cut them into thin slices, and fry them till you have caramelized and crispy plantain chips. Plantains can serve as a great side dish to a plate of beans, rice, or both. Plantains can also be baked and enjoyed in cookies, cakes, or any other baked variation.
Black plantains are the ripest form of plantain you can have; they can be used for sweet desserts or used in baking. As the plantain ripens, the texture changes and becomes softer, you can still cook and eat it, but it might not be okay for some recipes. Plantains are also popular in most Caribbean dishes and recipes.
Origin of Plantains? Where to Procure them?
There are up to 70 species of plantains and bananas; they belong to the Musa genus. Although plantains are native to Southeast Asia, they can be found in Western and Central African countries, the Caribbean Islands, Northern and Central America, and some regions in Southeast Asia.
Plantains are usually bigger than the average banana, the skin is tougher and cannot be eaten. The taste and physical properties of plantains depend on how ripe they are, regardless of the species. Unripe plantains have a very hard texture and are always green.
Ripe plantains have a yellow color and a softer texture. They can be eaten raw, but they still need to be cooked. Overripe or over matured plantains will be black or yellow with huge black splotches. Plantains can be found in grocery stores or at farmers’ markets.
Which is Healthier: Plantains or Potatoes?
If you are concerned about calories, there isn’t much difference between plantains and potatoes. Their vitamin and mineral makeup are different, and they both contain antioxidants that are of great benefit to the body. Plantain chips or potato chips will not do much good for your body, especially if you eat too much. Salty and oily foods are not good for the body.
Fact You Don’t Know About Plantains
- Plantain comes from the Musa genus, over 1000 proteins found in these species have been identified as protein allergens. It can cause a food allergy or latex fruit syndrome with symptoms like skin rash, itching of the throat, tongue, mild swelling of the lips, anaphylactic shock, and stomach upset.