The Particulars of Plantains

I have always loved plantains! Being a part of family who is from the Caribbean, plantains were a normal staple dish with all of our meals. There were fried plantains, broiled plantains, baked plantains, plantain chips and raw plantains that are used in a shake. 

Plantains are usually served as a starchy side dish, and they can also be a delicious addition to soups, stews and meat dishes. They resemble a large green banana, but they never become as sweet as a banana. Nutritionally, plantains are comparable to bananas, except that their content of vitamin A is much higher, providing approximately 20 percent of the RDA. An average plantain has about 220 calories and is a good source of potassium and fiber.

Plantains origins are in Southeast Asia, but they have become the major staple food for countries such as West and Central Africa, Central America, the Caribbean Islands and the Northern Coastal parts of South America.  They fruit year-round, which makes them a reliable all-season staple food crop. Many developing countries with inadequate food storage, preservation and transportation use the plantain as their main source of food. In Africa, plantains provide more than 25 percent of the carbohydrate requirements for more than 70 million people. 

Plantains can be used for cooking at any stage of ripeness. As a plantain ripens, it becomes sweeter and its color changes from green to yellow to black, just like a banana. Green plantains are firm and starchy, and resemble potato flavor. Yellow plantains are softer and starchy, but sweet. Extremely ripe plantains have softer, deep yellow pulp that is much sweeter than the earlier stages of ripeness. 

Green plantains pulp is hard and the peel often so stiff that it has to be cut with a knife to be removed. They are always cooked or fried when eaten green. Yellow to black stages can be used in sweet dishes or eaten raw, but are not as tasty as bananas, so they are usually cooked. Steam-cooked plantains are considered a nutritious food for infants and the elderly. A ripe plantain is fed to infants at weaning; it is mashed with a pinch of salt. 

Instead of eating rice and beans, why not have a tasty starchy plantain side dish with your dinner tonight! 


Healthy Tasting Plantains

Recipe developed by Denine Rogers, RDN, LD

Ingredients
2 very ripe plantains
cooking spray (I prefer the butter kind)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Coat a nonstick cookie sheet with cooking spray.
  3. Cut the ends off of the plantains and peel. Cut each plantain on the diagonal into 1/2-inch slices.
  4. Arrange in single layer and coat tops with cooking spray.
  5. Bake, turning occasionally, for 10-15 minutes, until plantains are golden brown and very tender.
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Denine Rogers, RDN, LD, FAND
Denine Roger, RDN, LD, FAND, is the owner of Living Healthy in Douglasville, Ga. She specializes in alternative/holistic medicine, cultural diversity, gardening and integrative nutrition. Read her blog, LivingHealthy1.org, and follow her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.