One of my students from Ghana recently reminded me that plantains, a nutritious and delicious treat, can be cooked in a variety of ways. She likes to boil her plantains, but I like to fry mine. I prefer to wait until the plantains are very soft and almost black before I cut them in circular pieces and fry them until they are dark brown and slightly crispy. (Yummy!) My student, B, likes to boil her plantains when they are greenish yellow. But I do know another woman from Ghana who cuts her plantains in large pieces and fries them. I guess the phrase "to each, his own" applies to the ways people like to eat this exotic banana.
My friend Annette, who is from Jamaica, taught me how to make porridge with very green bananas when my daughter was still an infant. It was one of the few things Gigi would eat when she was very young. To make the porridge, you peel a very green plantain and cut it into pieces. Blend the slices in a blender, along with a bit of water. Pour the pureed liquid in a pot and add sweetened condense milk, a touch of vanilla, and a bit of nutmeg (first test to see if your child's stomach can handle the nutmeg.) Bring the ingredients to a slow boil on your stovetop, stirring occasionally. When the liquid thickens, remove the pot from the heat. Place the plantain porridge in a bowl for your child and serve when it has cooled a bit. I'm sure your baby will love this concoction as much as Gigi did. It's a great way to give your child the necessary iron and potassium he or she needs. (I ate a lot of it myself and was quite satisfied!)
Plantains are very popular in various parts of Africa, Asia, India and Latin American countries. They are close relatives of bananas, but are longer, have thicker skins, and are typically eaten cooked instead of raw. The skin of plantains ranges in color from green and yellow to brownish black, while their flesh varies from cream to salmon-colored. South American Indians boiled the plantain peels and drank this liquid as a remedy for colds.
Pick up a few the next time you go to your grocery store (or the nearest International food store.) The sweet, exotic taste of this delicious fruit is sure to grow on you!