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This article is about the fruit. For the small herb, see Plantago
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Ripe plantains at market.
Ripe plantains at market.
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Scientific classification
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Kingdom: Plantae
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Division: Magnoliophyta
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Class: Liliopsida
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Order: Zingiberales
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Superfamily: {{{superfamilia}}}
Family: Musaceae
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Genus: Musa
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Binomial name
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Type Species
Musa × paradisiaca
A load of plantains in Masaya, Nicaragua

The plantain (pronounced [plan-tane] or [plan-tain][1]) is a species of the genus Musa and is generally used for cooking, in contrast to the soft, sweet banana (which is sometimes called the dessert banana). The population of North America was first introduced to the banana plantain, and colloquially in the United States and Europe the term "banana" refers to that variety. The word "banana" is often used incorrectly to describe other plantain varieties as well, when in fact the generic name is "plantain" and the specific varieties are cooking plantain, banana plantain, bocadillo plantain (the little one), etc. All members of the genus Musa are indigenous to the tropical region of South-east Asia, including the Malay Archipelago and northern Australia[2].

Plantains tend to be firmer and lower in sugar content than dessert bananas and are used either when green or under-ripe (and therefore starchy) or overripe (and therefore sweet). Plantains are a staple food in the tropical regions of the world, treated in much the same way as potatoes and with a similar neutral flavour and texture when unripe. They are grown as far north as Florida, the Caribbean, the Canary Islands, Madeira, Egypt, and southern Japan or Taiwan and as far south as KwaZulu-Natal and southern Brazil. The largest exporter of plantains to the United States is Colombia. It is assumed that the Portuguese Franciscan friars were responsible for the introduction of plantains to the Caribbean islands and other parts of the Americas. The Spaniards, who saw a similarity to the plane tree that grows in Spain, gave the plantain its Spanish name, plátano.

Main article: List of banana and plantain diseases


Plantain flowers

Plantain will flower only once, and all the flowers grow at the end of its shoot in separate bunches. Only the first few bunches will become fruits. Those that do not become fruit are used for cooking, and are often chopped and fried with masala powder. In Vietnam the flower is used in salad. In Cuisine of Laos, the banana flower is typically eaten raw in vermicelli soups.

Plantain leaves

Lunch from Karnataka served on a plantain leaf. See Image for extended descriptions.

Traditionally plantain leaves are used like plates in several dishes, such as Venezuelan Hallacas, while serving South Indian Thali or during sadhya. They add a subtle but essential aroma to the dish. The leaves are fairly widely available in grocery stores or open air markets in Venezuela and can exceed two meters in length. They are also used to stimulate appetite as a fragrant smell is given off when hot food is placed on top of the leaf. In Nicaragua they wrap their Nacatamales and also used for their Vigoron, Vaho and other dishes.. In Honduras and Colombia, these are usually used to wrap tamales before and while cooking, and they can be used to wrap any kind of seasoned meat while cooking to keep the flavor in. In the Dominican Republic, the plantain is the country's main food source and is used just as much if not, more than rice. Mangu and Sancocho are 2 signature dishes that revolve around the plantain.

Plantain leaves are similar to banana leaves but are larger and stronger, therefore reducing waste. They are lightly smoked over an open fire and this adds to their toughness, their storage properties and the flavour they give. With plantain leaves there is a lot less disposal (pieces too small to use) than with banana leaves, which makes them a better choice.

Plantain shoot

The plantain will only fruit once. After harvesting the fruit, the plantain plant can be cut and the layers peeled (like an onion) to get a cylinder shaped soft shoot. This can be chopped and first steamed, then fried with masala powder, to make an excellent dish.

Plantain as food

Plantains served over grilled pacu.


The rootstock which bears the leaves is soft and full of starch just before the flowering period, and it is sometimes used as food in Ethiopia; the young shoots of several species are cooked and eaten.


Plantains can be used for cooking at any stage of ripeness, and very ripe plantain can be eaten raw. As the plantain ripens, it becomes sweeter and its color changes from green to yellow to black, just like its cousin the banana. Green plantains are firm and starchy, and resemble potatoes in flavor. Yellow plantains are softer and starchy but sweet. Extremely ripe plantains are softer, deep yellow pulp that is much sweeter than the earlier stages of ripeness.

Plantains in the yellow to black stages can be used in sweet dishes. Steam-cooked plantains are considered a nutritious food for infants and the elderly. Ripe plantain is used as food for infants at weaning: it is mashed with a pinch of salt and is believed to be more easily digestible than ripe banana.

Plaintain packing facility, circa 1900

The juice from peeling the plant can stain clothing and hands, and it can be very difficult to remove.

Dried flour

Plantains are also dried and ground into flour; banana meal forms an important foodstuff, with the following constituents: water 10.62, albuminoids 3.55, fat 1.15, carbohydrates 81.67 (more than ⅔ starch), fibre 1.15, phosphates 0.26, other salts, 1.60. The sugar is chiefly sucrose.


Plantain fruit can be brewed into an alcoholic drink.


Plantain chips

After removing the skin, unripe fruit can be sliced (1 or 2 mm thick) and fried in boiling oil, to produce chips. This preparation of plantain is also known as 'tostones' in some of Central American and South American countries and as platanutres in Puerto Rico. Tostones in Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico are twice fried patties (see below). In Cuba, the thinly sliced chips are referred to as 'chicharritas' or 'mariquitas,' (when sliced thinly along the long axis of the fruit) and tostones are also known as 'tachinos' or 'chatinos.' Both dishes are very popular as snacks and appetizers. In Ecuador and Peru they are called "chifles" with a thicker variant named "patacones." Chips fried in Coconut oil and sprinkled with salt is an important item in sadhya (a vegetarian feast) in the state of Kerala in India. The chips are typically labeled 'Plantain Chips' if they are made of green plantains that taste starchy like potato chips. In Honduras they are called tajadas. If the chips are made from sweeter fruit, they are called 'Banana Chips.' They can also be sliced vertically to create a variation known as Plantain Strips. Plantain chips are also a popular treat in Jamaica and in Nigeria (where it is called ipekere by the Yoruba). The Plaintains are used quite frequently in countries such as Cuba, Ecuador and Peru.


After removing the skin, the ripened fruit can be sliced (3-4 mm thick) and pan fried in plantain oil and sprinkled with salt to produce Maduros. In Ecuador and Colombia they are also eaten baked in the oven. Some places, as in Puerto Rico, do not add salt.

Maduros are a delicacy in Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras, Panama, Peru, Colombia, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago (although just called plantain) and in Nicaragua. In Costa Rica they are sprinkled with sugar. In Western Nigeria fried sliced plantains are known as dodo, and in Cameroon, they are known as missole.

Banana Cue

In the Philippines, banana cue is one of the most popular snack items at home, school, office and just about anywhere in the archipelago where plantain is grown. Banana cue may be a misnomer as it is not really cooked in a skewer over a hot ember like a barbecue. Rather, the peeled flesh of underripe plantain are fried in a boiling oil over a medium fire before they are held in a skewer ready for sale. There are two ways to prepare a banana cue. One way is to fry the peeled banana in a boiling oil with some amount of brown sugar thrown in to caramelize the flesh. Another way is to fry the flesh in a boiling oil until done. When done, they are scooped out of the cooking pan and placed on a dripping pan to allow the oil to drip before a generous amount of refined sugar is sprinkled over them.


A typical Nicaraguan dish containing gallopinto, tajadas, fried cheese and cabbage.

In Venezuela and Panama, fried ripened plantain slices are known as "tajadas." They are customary in most typical meals, such as the Pabellón criollo. The host or waiter may also offer them as "barandas" (guard rails) in common slang - as the long slices are typically placed on the sides of a full dish, and therefore look as such. Some variations include adding honey or sugar and frying the slices in butter, to obtain a golden caramel; the result has a sweeter taste and a characteristic pleasant smell.

In Panama, "tajadas" are eaten daily together with steamed rice, meat and beans, thus making up an essential part of the Panamanian diet.

By contrast, in Nicaragua, "tajadas" are fried unripened plantain slices and are traditionally served in a fritanga or with fried pork, or on their own on green banana leaves, either with a cabbage salad or fresh cheese.

On Colombia's Caribbean coast, "tajadas" of fried green plantain are consumed along with grilled meats, and may be considered almost the dietary equivalent of the French-fried potato of Europe and North America.

Tostones / Patacones / Tachinos

Tostones as they are fried a second time.

Tostones are twice-fried plantain patties. Plantains are sliced in 4-cm (1.5-in) long pieces and fried in oil. The segments are then removed and individually smashed down either by hand or with a tostonera to about half their original height. Finally, the pieces are fried again and then seasoned to taste, often with salt. In the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, the tostones are often dipped for about a minute or less in water seasoned with garlic salt. In some South American countries, the name 'tostones' is used to describe this food when prepared at home and also plantain chips (mentioned above), which are typically purchased from a store.

While tostones are generally made using green plantains because of their lower sugar content, some Tostón recipes are also made using yellow (ripe) plantains. However, when tostones are made with ripe plantains, they are not pressed flat and are referred to as "Amarillos" in the Spanish islands. They are also known as "Maduritos" in the Dominican Republic, "Patacones" in Colombia[citation needed], Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela, Ecuador,'Tachinos' or 'Chatinos' in Cuba and "Bannann Peze" in Haiti. Patacones may be served with sprinkled cheese, shredded meat and chopped salad on top, very much like a Mexican tostada.

Fufu de platano

Fufu de platano (fufu made from plantain) is a traditional and very popular lunch dish in Cuba. It is a fufu (thick porridge) made by boiling the plantains in water and mashing with a fork. The fufu is then mixed with chicken stock and sofrito, a sauce made from pork lard, garlic, onions, pepper, tomato sauce, a touch of vinegar and cumin.


In Venezuela, a yo-yo is a traditional dish made of two short slices of fried ripened plantain (see Tajadas) placed on top of each other with local soft white cheese in the middle (in a sandwich-like fashion) and held together with toothpicks. The arrangement is dipped in beaten eggs and fried again until the cheese melts and the yo-yo acquires a deep golden hue. They are served as sides or entrees.

These are also known as fried plantain in Belize and Jamaica.


Chifles is the Spanish Term used in Ecuador and Peru for fried green Plantains sliced (1 or 2 mm thick), it is also used to describe Plantain Chips which are sliced thinner.


Popular in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, mofongo is made by mashing baked (sometimes fried) plantain in a mortar or food processor with garlic and pork crackling, chicken or beef stock and herbs. The resulting mixture is formed into balls and eaten warm.


Alcapurria - A fried mixture of beef, plantains and other vegetables popular in Puerto Rico


A traditional dish from the Dominican Republic, consisting of green plantains boiled, mashed and seasoned with butter or oil. It is traditionally eaten for breakfast or dinner, topped with sauteed onions and accompanied by fried eggs, cheese or salami.


Plantain is popular in West Africa and especially Nigeria. There, plantain is usually sliced diagonally for a large oval shape, circularly or in little pyramids less than a centimeter thick. This is fried in oil and known as dodo.


Ipekere is the term used for fried unripe plantains in Nigeria. The plantain is usually thinly sliced and fried in hot oil and has a crunchy texture.


Boli is the term used for roasted plantain in Nigeria. The plantain is usually barbecued/grilled and served with roasted fish, peanuts and a hot palm oil sauce. Very popular as lunch snack in southern and western Nigeria for example Rivers and Lagos states. It is popular among the working class as a quick mid-day meal.

Pazham Boli or Pazham Pori

Pazham(banana) Boli or Pazham pori is a term used for fried plantain in Kerala India. The plantain is usually dipped in wheat flour and then fried in coconut or vegetable oil. Its a very popular snack among Keralites


Plantains are used in the Ivory Coast dish aloco as the main ingredient. Fried plantains are covered in an onion-tomato sauce, often with a grilled fish between the plantains and sauce.[3]

Production trends

Plantain output in 2005

FAO reports that Uganda was the top producer of plantain in 2005 followed by Colombia.


  1. Oxford English Dictionary, second edition, 1989
  2. Musa species (banana and plantain)
  3. "Aloco recipe". Aloco. Retrieved on 2006-08-12.


External links

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