by Carol M. Bareuther, R.D.
They look like bananas and cook more like potatoes. Here's quick and easy information about that green-to-yellow-to-black tropical fruit, the plantain.
Plantains are popular in Latin America, the Caribbean and other parts of the world. An old folk remedy requires eating unripe, cooked plantains to cure or prevent ulcers. Very limited research suggests this may have some merit. (Unripe bunch bananas might also work.)
One medium plantain (about 6 ounces) serves up around 200 calories; 4 grams of fiber; and virtually no fat, cholesterol or sodium. It's also an excellent source of potassium and vitamins A, B-6 and C.
How to Choose a Good Plantain
Plantains shouldn’t be hard and dry, mushy, moldy, or cracked. You can eat them at any stage of ripeness. Green plantains taste starchy and blander; black—the only stage you can eat raw—are sweetest.
Plantain Storage Tips
Green plantains can be savored over several days and at each delicious stage of ripeness.
“Ripen plantains at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, and turn them daily,” advises Robert Schueller, spokesperson for Melissa’s World Variety Produce, a specialty produce company. “When they reach the desired stage of ripeness, plantains can also be frozen for future use.” To freeze plantains, peel them, wrap them in plastic wrap, and freeze for up to three months, he says.
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How to Peel a Plantain
The hardest part of preparing plantains is peeling them. “The key is to use a sharp knife,” says Schueller, who suggests these steps:
- Slice off the ends.
- Cut the plantain in half, widthwise.
- Make four lengthwise slits in the skin of each half.
- Peel the skin away, tugging crosswise.
- Wash your hands; the juice under the peel can stain clothes.
How to Cook Plantains
When it comes to cooking, think of plantains more as potatoes than bananas. Here are some simple preparation ideas:
- Bake unpeeled yellow plantains at 350º F for 15 minutes (until tender); nuke in the microwave about five minutes; or grill over medium-hot coals until the peels turn black and split open slightly.
- Boil peeled, sliced green or yellow plantains in soups and stews.
- Crisp green or yellow peeled slices in the oven; serve with a spicy salsa.
- Eat a black plantain raw, perhaps accompanied by ice cream for a dessert.
CAROL M. BAREUTHER, R.D., is a nutritionist with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
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Last updated and/or approved: April 2012. Original article appeared in a previous issue of the former print magazine. Bio current as of that issue. This general health-care information is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.