HOME GROWN: Plantains a key staple in our diet
Did you know that plantains are the tenth most important staple food that feeds the world, and are believed to have been cultivated since 1500 AD in the Caribbean?
Interestingly enough, plantains and traditional bananas are very closely related, belonging to the same species. However, the plantain bears fruit year-round making it a reliable source of essential carbohydrates throughout the developing world.
My formative exposure to plantains was via Latin, or Hispanic cuisines, namely that of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Similarly to our consumption of plantains, these cultures prepare plantains either entirely unripe or very ripe. Tostones, or fried green plantains, and maduros, fried sweet or ripe plantains, are staples of the cuisine. Tostones are often served coated with a generous layer of salt with a tasty garlic oil dipping sauce. Maduros, too, are sprinkled with a generous helping of salt and pan fried, making an irresistible combination of salty and sweet flavours.
An excellent source of carbohydrates, and high in fibre, plantains provide a significant quantity of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C, B6, and magnesium and potassium.
Despite the aforementioned benefits, we seemingly rely solely on frying in oil to achieve an unhealthy outcome; the minute the plantain slice hits the oil the nutritive benefits of the fruit in its raw state are for the most part negated by our preparation method.
I can speak from experience, my son loves fried sweet plantains; an entire plate can disappear in a matter of seconds.
In earnest, I’ve been looking for some alternate methods of preparation. Not surprisingly, each country seems to have its signature preparation.
Venezuelan cuisine, makes an appetizer called the “yo-yo”, a sort of plantain sandwich with cheese to the centre, dipped in egg, rolled in bread crumbs and deep fried until the cheese melts. Now that wasn’t what I was looking for, but it’s absolutely something I would like to try!
Most of the delicious dishes I found rely on frying, so it would seem that aside from steaming or grilling and mashing, plantains are to be enjoyed in moderation when fried, but nonetheless it’s an excellent inclusion in our diets.