Winter Ingredient Essentials: Plantains

    Plantains
    Carolyng Gomes

    Though related to the banana, plantains are a starchier fruit that are a staple in the Latin diet. In addition to their delicious flavor and texture, they are packed with hunger satiating fiber, immunity boosting Vitamin C, and vision and skin supporting Vitamin A and potassium, which helps promote good cell function. Now that you know they're so healthy, you can enjoy those extra tajaditas!

    How do I pick the best plantains?

    Choosing the right plantain depends on how you are going to use it. Tostones, for instance, require green plantains that have not ripened. Green plantains are heavy for their size, have a thick skin and are firm to the touch. Steer clear of any fruit that is bruised or cut. For a recipe that is counting on a plantain's sweet side, choose one that is yellow with black spots which indicates ripeness. The plantain should still feel heavy for its size and yield to gentle pressure. Look out for plantains that have very soft spots, shriveling skin or mold, as these are beyond ripe.

    What can I make with plantains?

    Again, what you make depends on the state of ripeness of your picks. Green plantains are used similarly to potatoes and are often baked, boiled, or fried. From mashed fried plantain in mofongo to crispy tostones that resemble kettle cooked chips, plátano verde is quite versatile. Plátano maduro, ripe plantain, is very sweet and is most commonly prepared fried. Tajadas are a typical side dish, though ripe plantains can be grilled, baked, and stuffed to tasty perfection.

    Prep plantains by washing, drying, and slicing the ends off with a paring knife. Then make a shallow cut, but one that is deep enough to allow you to easily peel back the thick skin, down the middle. Then slice, dice, and mash your way to a delicious dish.

    Plantains should be stored at room temperature. Plantains continue to ripen so if you can only find plátano verde don’t fret, just leave it on the counter a few days to ripen. How long your plantains keep fresh depends on what stage of ripeness they were at when purchased. A ripe plantain can remain fresh for up to 5 days, while green plantains can last up to two weeks.

    If your plantains begin to develop mold on the outside simply wash, dry, and use within the next day. After that day, toss it. 

    Recipes to try include: Tajadas, Picadillo-Stuffed Plantains and Baked Tostones.

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