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Plantains are close relatives of the banana, both belonging to the musaceae family; even though, no formal botanical distinction has ever been made between the two. Bananas tend to be much sweeter than plantains, and plantains usually require cooking before eating. All members of the musaceae family are native to Southeast Asia, however they are today grown all over the tropical and sub – tropical regions of the world. In the United States plantains grow mostly in southern states, with a few noted trees as far as Northern California. The world’s largest commercial producers include Uganda, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Guatemala.
Throughout the Western region, plantains are a staple in Hispanic homes. They are traditionally boiled, baked, fried, steamed, or added to soups. But each culture has many different dishes and ways to enjoy plantains. Mashed plantains with pork, or beef, or chicken, and combined with other tropical vegetables make up many traditional meals. Even the leaves of the plantain tree or “hojas” are used for wrapping and cooking tamales. Classified in three stages of ripeness, green plantains will be very hard and starchy; yellow and semi ripe plantains will still be firm and starchy but will be a bit sweeter; very ripe plantains will be deep yellow and turning black and will be very sweet. Very ripe plantains will be sweet and this is the only time they can be eaten raw. Some say that mashed ripe plantains are perfect for use when weaning children, as they are easier on the stomach than bananas. Plantain chips, prepared in many different shapes and sizes and deep fried, are very popular as well.
Plantain, Wilkipedia, the free encyclopedia