Plantains look like oversized bananas, so it’s no surprise that the two fruits are closely related — so closely, in fact, that although the U.S. makes a distinction between bananas and plantains, that isn’t the case in other countries. That’s because, as we talked about last week, we only see Cavendish bananas in our grocery stores (for the most part), which leaves us with a straightforward choice between bananas (also referred to as “dessert bananas” because we can eat them raw) and plantains (sometimes called “cooking plantains” because they’re cooked before eating). But in other countries — the ones that see more of the 1000 different banana varieties — this clear-cut distinction between the two is less applicable.
Like bananas, plantains grow on a giant herb, and their peel color changes from green (1, below) to yellow (3, below) to completely black as they ripen — and they can be eaten at every stage. Elizabeth Schneider breaks down the fruit’s characteristics: “When the skin is green to nearly yellow, [the] plantain is solid and starchy, like yuca or a dense waxy potato; when the skin is yellow to mottled brown, [the] plantain has a slight fruitiness and a more tender but still firm texture; when brown to black-ripe, the golden flesh is creamy and sweet but holds its shape when cooked, unlike [a] banana.”
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