Cultural Food Series: Plantain
Plantain the Seeds for a Wonderful Fruit
This week we delve into the wonderful planet of plantain for our cultural food segment!
Plantain is a fruit synonymous with particular cuisines and a go-to staple seen in many dishes. It is also of economic importance in several tropical regions. Though it has a strong connection with the Caribbean, plantains are believed to have originated in Southeast Asia. Thought to have been in existence since 500BC, plantains came from Malaysia and Indonesia before Alexander the Great introduced them to Europeans in 327BC, the Trans-Saharan trade boom bought it to Africa and a Catholic monk to the Caribbean in 1516.
The horn plantain and the French plantain are the most common types, and both grow in India, Africa, Egypt, and tropical America. The French plantains are also seen in Indonesia and the Pacific Islands. It is a staple in Uganda and the Bantu region
Don’t Confuse it with the Common Banana
Though similar in appearance, the flavours and cooking potential of plantains really set them apart from the banana. Plantain is a more starchy and less sweet version of its commonly known cousin. Like a banana though, as the plantain ripens, it becomes sweeter and its colour changes from green to yellow to black. Green plantains are firm and starchy and resemble potatoes in flavour. Yellow plantains are softer and starchy yet sweet, whilst extremely ripe plantains have softer, deep yellow pulp that is much sweeter.
Plantains really come into their own when unripe. They are so versatile from a cooking perspective and can play the role of side dish to centre feature incredibly well. Unripe plantain is a great source of indigestible carbohydrates (dietary fibre) and undigestible starch fraction. Unripe plantain flour has also been explored as an alternative ingredient to normal flours.
Let’s Talk Benefits
Plantains are a rich source of fibre, vitamins A, C, and B6 (pyrixodine), and the minerals magnesium and potassium. All essential for overall wellbeing in the roles that they play as powerful antioxidants,
There have also been small amounts of research on using plantain as a form of complementary treatment alongside medications for heavy menstrual bleeding, depression, and heart conditions to name a few. However, there is no strong evidence to suggest plantain’s herbal and medicinal properties to date. There is no denying though, as a rich source of fibre that plantains are worthy of gracing our dinner table.
Try this at Home
Plantain truly is versatile – baked, fried, steamed, or mashed it can be used in all cuisines as it takes on flavours, herbs and spices incredibly well. Here is a wonderful morning treat, infamous in Jamaica called Plantain Porridge
Plantain Porridge Recipe
- Serves 2
- Prep time: 5 minutes
- Cook time: 10 minutes
- 2 ripe (yellow plantains)
- 250ml oat milk
- 1 tbsp peanut butter
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp baobab powder
- ¼ tsp cinnamon powder
- 2 tbsp maple syrup (optional)
- Peel and cut the plantain into slices before pureeing in a blender with the oat milk and the other ingredients until smooth and evenly mixed through.
- Heat the mixture in a saucepan until warm and slightly thickened.
- Serve with optional toppings of nuts and seeds with fruits of your choice.
If you enjoyed this article then check out our other cultural food installment on Lotus Root.