Can I just take a moment to say that plantains are aweeeessssooooommmmmeeee? Not only are they nutritious ripe or unripe, they are very versatile and can be enjoyed in a many ways as a main or side dish. They are packed with vitamin C (immune function, skin and cell growth and maintenance), vitamin A (vision, bone growth, immune system function), vitamin B6 (improve brain function, healthy eyes, improve symptoms of PMS, helps with anemia), potassium (relief blood pressure, stress) and fiber, need I say more?
To fully enjoy plantains, you have to know the taste profile at various ripening stages so that you can cook appropriately.
The photo above shows the different ripening stages. I prefer A to C, the unripe and partially ripe plantains because they contain more complex carbohydrates and are not too sweet or soft. If you want the sweet taste then go for D, the yellow and/or blackened versions which are are also a lot softer.
How to buy: Plantains are harvested at maturity in areas where they are native, sometimes people wait till a few start turning yellow before cutting them down. Just be careful because some animals, birds, or your neighbors may get to them before you (yes we caught our neighbor multiple times trying to help us with ours). Plantains are imported in Canada so they are harvested unripe, sometimes they may not be mature (when you cut throw it, you’ll find the sticky, milky sap). Pick firm plantains with minimal dents on them, if they are ripe then pick ones that are not mushy but close to the feel of an orange. These could have some black on them too (as in D above). Plantains can be ripened at home by wrapping them in a plastic bag for a few days.
Follow the instructions below for how to peel a plantain:
Plantains can be enjoyed boiled, grilled, fried, or baked. My children love fried plantains a lot so we tend to go the fried route. In the summer time, I am all about grilled plantains though.
How to fry plantains:
- You will need ripe plantains (unripe plantains are tough when fried so use ripe if you want the soft texture): 1 – 2 per person
- Oil with a high heating point like vegetable oil for frying – just enough to cover the bottom of the pan by about an inch or two
- Salt or seasonings of choice
- Peel plantains as indicated in the photos above. Slice them diagonally or horizontally (for frying I find the ideal size to be about 1/2 inch thick).
- In a frying pan or skillet, heat oil to 350oF (you can test the oil by dropping a small piece of plantain in it. If it sizzles and rises to the top, you are good to go).
- Fry plantain until sides are golden brown (about 1 to 2 minutes per side). The rate at which they brown will depend on how ripe your plantain is. Browning comes from the caramelization of sugars in the plantain so the riper your plantain is, the quicker it will brown and vice versa.
The frying process
- Once they brown, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. You can sprinkle salt if using but I find it is just fine without salt. You can eat it plain, with beans, or any sauce of choice like Kale sauce (my favourite).
Try it out and let me know how it goes. Feel free to share your thoughts and comments.