Monday, February 24, 2014

Bananas vs Plantains


The tropics are abundant with bananas. Some are sweet when ripe, peeled and eaten, and some are starchy and bland, cooking varieties of bananas otherwise known as plantains. For all practical purposes, the distinction between the two is based solely on how the fruits are consumed: cooked or eaten fresh out of hand. 

The common banana is sweet, easily digested and ready to eat when the skin is yellow. Plantains, on the other hand, are thick skinned and must be boiled, steamed, roasted, baked or deep fried to make them soft and palatable. When the peel is green to yellow, the flesh has a starchy texture with a bland flavor. As the peel changes to brown or black, the plantain losses some of its starch and becomes slightly sweet. At this stage plantains have more of a banana aroma but are still unsuitable until cooked. The interior color of the fruit is creamy, yellowish or lightly pink.

Plantains are native to India and are popularly grown in tropical climates, especially in Western Africa and the Caribbean countries.  They are often used in soups and stews or simply mashed.

There are over 500 different types of bananas; this means that if you eat a different variety of banana every day, it would take almost a year and a half to eat every one.

Photos by Forest and Kim Starr