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Musa paradisiaca, the plantain ( ) is a crop in 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 in the United Statesmarker and Europe "banana" generally refers to that variety. The word "banana" is often used (some would say incorrectly, although there is no formal botanical distinction between bananas and plantains) to describe other plantain varieties, and names may reflect local uses or characteristics of varieties: cooking plantain, banana plantain, beer banana, bocadillo plantain (the little one), etc. All members of the genus Musa are indigenous to the tropical regions of Southeast Asia and Oceania, including the (redundant term) Malay Archipelago (modern Indonesiamarker, Malaysiamarker and the Philippinesmarker) and Northern Australia.

Plantains tend to be firmer and lower in sugar content than dessert bananas. Bananas are most often eaten raw, while plantains usually require cooking or other processing, 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 the unripe fruit is cooked by steaming, boiling or frying. Regions with Plantain crops include the Southern United States, Hawaiimarker, the Caribbeanmarker, Central America, Boliviamarker, Perumarker, Ecuadormarker, Colombiamarker, Southern Brazil, the Canary Islandsmarker, the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Seamarker, Madeiramarker, Egyptmarker, Cameroonmarker, Ghanamarker, Nigeriamarker, Uganda, Okinawamarker, Taiwanmarker, Indiamarker, Indonesiamarker, Malaysiamarker, the Philippinesmarker, the Pacific Islands and northern Australia. Farmers grow plantains as far north as Northern California and as far south as KwaZulu-Natal.

Plantains are in the genus Musa, and are mostly sterile triploid hybrids between the species Musa acuminata (A genome), and Musa balbisiana (B genome). Musa species are likely native to Indiamarker and Southern Asia. It is assumed that the Portuguesemarker Franciscan friars were responsible for the introduction of plantains from Africa to the Caribbeanmarker islands and other parts of the Americas.

Use of parts other than the fruit

Plantain flowers

Musa x paradisiaca flower
Each pseudostem of a plantain plant will flower only once, and all the flowers grow at the end of its shoot in a large bunch consisting of multiple hands with individual fingers (the fruits). Only the first few hands will become fruits. In Vietnam the young male flower, at the end of the bunch, is used in salad. In the cuisine of Laos, the plantain flower is typically eaten raw in vermicelli soups. Thoran is made in Keralamarker with the end of the bunch (called "Koompu" in Malayalam) and is considered to be highly nutritious. A type of Poriyal (Curry) is made from plantain flowers in Tamil Nadu.

Plantain leaves

Plantain leaves can exceed two meters in length. They are similar to banana leaves but are larger and stronger, thus reducing waste in cooking. In Latin America, plantain leaves are lightly smoked over an open fire which improves storage properties, flavor and aroma. In Venezuelamarker, they are fairly widely available in grocery stores or open air markets and are used as wrappers in Hallacas. In Nicaraguamarker they wrap Nacatamales, as well as Vigoron, Vaho and other dishes. In Perumarker, El Salvadormarker, Hondurasmarker, Costa Ricamarker, Panamamarker, and Colombiamarker, plantain leaves 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. The plantain is the main food source of the Dominican Republicmarker, and is used just as much as, if not more than, rice. Mangu and Sancocho are two signature dishes that revolve around the plantain. Puerto Rican pasteles are made primarily with fresh green banana dough stuffed with pork and then wrapped in plantain leaves which have been softened at the fire. Similarly, in Africa, the plantain leaves are dried and used to wrap corn dough before it is boiled to make Fanti Kenkey, a Ghanaianmarker dish eaten with ground pepper, onions, tomatoes and fish.

Traditionally plantain leaves are used like plates while serving South Indian thali or during Sadya. A traditional southern Indian meal is served on a plantain leaf with the position of the different food items on the leaf having an importance. They also have a religious significance in many Hindu rituals. They add a subtle but essential aroma to the dish. In the Indian state of Keralamarker, a food preparation called Ada is made in plantain leaves. Plantain leaves are also used in making Karimeen Pollichathu in Keralamarker. In Tamizh Nadu, the plantain leaf is used to serve food in most of the house during festivals or special occasions.

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. This dish is called Posola in Assamese and a distinct part of Assamese cuisine. In Keralamarker a thoran is made out of the shoot.

As food

Plantain has been consumed as human food since prehistory. Over the millennia use has evolved of consumption of various parts of the plantain plant.

Steamed, boiled, grilled or fried

In countries such as Trinidad and Tobagomarker, Hondurasmarker and Jamaicamarker the plantain is either simply fried, boiled or added to a soup. In Keralamarker ripe plantain is steamed and is a popular breakfast dish. In Ghanamarker, boiled plantain is eaten with "kontomire" stew, cabbage stew or "fante-fante" (fish) stew. The boiled plaintain can be mixed with groundnut paste, pepper, onion and palm oil to make "eto" which is eaten with avocado pear. In the southern United States, particularly in Texasmarker, Louisianamarker and Floridamarker, plantains are most often grilled.


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 Ethiopiamarker; 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. A 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


Plantain fruit can be brewed into an alcoholic drink.


Plantain chips
After removing the skin, the unripe fruit can be sliced (1 or 2 mm thick) and deep-fried in boiling oil, to produce chips.

This thin preparation of plantain is known as "tostones" in some of Central American and South American countries, platanutres in Puerto Rico and mariquitas in Cubamarker. In Cuba, the Dominican Republicmarker, Guatemalamarker and Puerto Rico, tostones refers to thicker twice-fried patties (see below).

In Haitimarker these slices are referred to as "bannan fris". When sliced thinly along the long axis of the fruit, the chips are referred to as "chicharritas" or "mariquitas". Both dishes are very popular as snacks and appetizers.

In Guyanamarker they are called "plantain chips". In Ecuadormarker they are called "chifles".

In Colombiamarker, a rather sweet variant of plantain chips is called "tajadas" or "maduros", while salty, round, thicker variants are usually called "patacones".

Chips fried in coconut oil and sprinkled with salt called "Upperi" or "Kaya Varuthathu" are a popular snack in the Southern Indian state of Keralamarker. They are an important item in Sadya, a vegetarian feast prepared during festive occasions. The chips are typically labeled "plantain chips" when they are made of green plantains that taste starchy like potato chips.

In Hondurasmarker 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 Jamaicamarker and in Nigeriamarker (where it is called ipekere by the Yorubas).

Plantains are used quite frequently in countries such as Guatemalamarker, Haitimarker, Puerto Rico, Mexicomarker, Belizemarker, Colombiamarker, Cubamarker, Hondurasmarker, Ecuadormarker, Guyanamarker, the United Statesmarker and Perumarker.

They are also popular in other Caribbean communities.

Plátanos Maduros

After removing the skin, the ripened fruit can be sliced (3-4 mm thick) and pan fried in oil until golden brown or according to preference. In the Dominican Republicmarker, Ecuadormarker, Colombiamarker, Hondurasmarker (where they are usually eaten with the native sour cream) and Venezuelamarker, they are also eaten baked in the oven (sometimes with cinnamon). Salt is only added to green plantains.

Plátanos maduros are a delicacy in the Dominican Republicmarker, Haitimarker, El Salvadormarker, Guatemalamarker, Ecuadormarker, Hondurasmarker, Panamamarker, Perumarker, Colombiamarker, Cubamarker, Surinamemarker, Puerto Rico (where they are called "amarillos"), Jamaicamarker, Trinidad & Tobagomarker (although just called plantain), Nicaraguamarker and in Venezuelamarker. In Costa Ricamarker they are sprinkled with sugar. In western Nigeriamarker fried sliced plantains are known as dodo, and in Cameroonmarker, they are known as missole. In Venezuelamarker, the ripe fruit is cut lengthwise, 3-4 mm thick, and fried until golden and sticky, as a very popular side dish called "tajadas"; "tajadas" are an integral piece of the national dish, "pabellon criollo".

Banana cue, Turon and Arroz a la Cubana

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.

Philippine plantains (called saba) are much smaller than the Latin American varieties, usually around 4-5 inches and somewhat boxy in shape. They are eaten mostly in the ripe stage as a dessert or sweet snack—often simply boiled, in syrup, or sliced lengthwise and fried, then sprinkled with sugar. They are also quite popular in this fried form (without the sugar) in the well-loved local dish, arroz a la cubana, consisting of minced picadillo-style seasoned beef, white rice, and fried eggs, with the fried plantains on the side. In addition, there is the equally popular midday snack turon, sliced ripe plantain wrapped in Chinese egg roll wrapper and deep-fried with a brown sugar glaze.

The traditional South American style large plantains (grown in the Southern Philippines) are now increasingly available in local Manilamarker markets, though their use is limited, as a relatively small number of Filipino are aware that they can be eaten as a savoury (e.g. as tostones, patacones, and so on).

Ash plantains

Sri Lankamarker's ash plantains (called "Alu Kesel") are generally used for cooking. In some occasions they are used in Ayurvedic medicine.


In Hondurasmarker, Panamamarker,Venezuelamarker and Central Colombiamarker fried ripened plantain slices are known as "tajadas." They are customary in most typical meals, such as the Venezuelan 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 Hondurasmarker, they are a popular takeaway food, usually with fried chicken, though they are also regularly eaten at home. They are popular chips sold in "pulperias" (minimarkets). In Panamamarker, "tajadas" are eaten daily together with steamed rice, meat and beans, thus making up an essential part of the Panamanian diet, as with Honduras.

By contrast, in Nicaraguamarker, "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 Colombiamarker's Caribbean coast, "tajadas" of fried green plantain are consumed along with grilled meats, and are the dietary equivalent of the French-fried potatoes/chips of Europe and North America.

Tostones, Patacones and Tachinos

Tostones as they are fried a second time.
Tostones (also known as Patacones in Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Panama and Ecuador) are twice-fried plantain patties often served as a side, appetizer, or snack. 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 with a bottle's bottom side 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 some countries like Haitimarker, Cubamarker, and Dominican Republicmarker the tostones are dipped in creole sauce from chicken, pork, beef, or shrimp before eaten. This is also very popular in Puerto Rico. 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. In western Venezuelamarker, patacones are very popular. Plantains are again sliced in long pieces and fried in oil, then they are used to make sandwiches with pork, beef, chicken, vegetables and ketchup. They can be made with unripe "patacon verde" or ripe "patacon amarillo" plantains.

Fufu de platano

Fufu de platano is a traditional and very popular lunch dish in Cuba. It is a fufu 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. The texture of Cuban fufu is similar to the mofongo consumed in other Caribbean areas, but it is not formed into a ball. Fufu is also a common centuries old traditional dish made in Ghana, Nigeria and other West African countries. It is made in a similar fashion as the Cuban fufu but is pounded, and has a thick paste porridge-like texture. West African fufu is sometimes separately made with cassava or made with plantains combined with cassava.


In Venezuelamarker, 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.


Chifles is the Spanish term used in Perumarker, Colombiamarker and Ecuadormarker for fried green plantains sliced (1 or 2 mm thick), it is also used to describe plantain chips which are sliced thinner.


Originated in Puerto Rico and popular in the Dominican Republicmarker, and essentially akin to the Cuban fufu, mofongo is made by mashing tostones in a mortar or food processor with little olive oil & stock. Garlic and pork crackling, bacon, chicken, shellfish, vegetables, spices, or herbs are also added. The resulting mixture is formed into cylinders the size of about two fists and eaten warm, usually with chicken stock or broth.

Mofongo "relleno," meaning stuffed, may contain stewed beef, chicken or seafood poured in a center crater formed with the serving spoon.


A type of savory Puerto Rican fritter. Although mainly comprised mainly of yautía, they also typically contain plantains, as well as the possible additions of green bananas and/or other tropical tubers found on the island. The plantains and tubers are mashed into a masa (dough) that is used to encase a filling of ground meat (picadillo), which are then deep fried.

Relleno de Maduros

A popular Caribbean dish which originated in Puerto Rico. It is sweet plantain mashed with egg and flour stuffed with raisins, olives, capers, ground meat and spices, then rolled into a ball and fried.

Pastelon De Amarillos

A traditional Puerto Rican dish, it is like lasagne but uses sweet plantains to replace the pasta.


A traditional dish from the Dominican Republicmarker, consisting of peeled green, boiled plantains, mashed and softened with butter or oil and enough of the hot water they were boiled in so that the consistency should be a little stiffer that mashed potatoes. It is traditionally eaten for breakfast topped with sautéed onions and accompanied by fried eggs, fried cheese or salami and avocado.


Plantain is popular in West Africa especially Cameroonmarker and Nigeriamarker; it is generally called dodo (Dough - Dough). The ripe plantain is usually sliced diagonally for a large oval shape, then fried in oil to a golden brown consistency.


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


Bole is the term used for roasted plantain in Nigeriamarker. The plantain is usually barbecued/grilled and served with roasted fish, ground peanuts and a hot palm oil sauce. It is very popular as a lunch snack in southern and western Nigeria, for example in Riversmarker and Lagos statesmarker. It is popular among the working class as a quick midday meal.


Matoke is a plantain dish common in East Africa. The plantains are peeled, wrapped in the plant's leaves and set in a cooking pot (sufuria) on the stalks which have been removed from the leaves. The pot is then placed on a charcoal fire and the matoke is steamed for a couple of hours in water placed in the bottom of the cooking pot. While uncooked, the matoke is white and fairly hard. Cooking turns it soft and yellow. The matoke is then mashed while still wrapped in the leaves and often served on a fresh leaf. It is then eaten with a sauce made of vegetables, ground peanut or some type of meat (goat meat and beef are common).

Ethakka Appam/Pazham Pori

Ethakka Appam, Pazham (banana) Boli or Pazham Pori is a term used for fried plantain in the Southern Indian state of Keralamarker. The plantain is usually dipped in sweetened wheat flour batter and then fried in coconut or vegetable oil. It is a very popular snack among Keralites. This is very similar to pisang goreng (Indonesian for fried bananas), which is a dessert common to Malaysiamarker, Indonesiamarker and Singaporemarker.


Plantains are used in the Ivory Coastmarker 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.

Production trends

Plantain output in 2005
FAO reports that Uganda was the top producer of plantain in 2005 followed by Colombiamarker.

See Also


External links

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