|On the left, an unripe green plantain, on the right, a near-death one!|
Plantains are very popular in Africa and Latin America, often referred to as the pasta and potatoes of the Caribbean. Plantains are considered a fruit, but often treated and regarded as a vegetable. They are usually fried or baked and can be enjoyed at every stage of ripeness, from green and unblemished, to completely black. In it's green stage, plantains are bland, starchy, and firm in texture, lending themselves well to savory dishes. As the plantain evolves and turns black, it develops a much sweeter flavor and a slightly more banana-y aroma yet still remains quite firm. In this fully ripened state they are well suited for recipes that benefit from a hint of sweetness, such as pancakes. Plantains are highly nutritious and are:
- good source of potassium and vitamins A & C
- high in fiber
- rich source of B complex vitamins, particularly high in B-6
- fairly high in minerals including magnesium, iron, and phosphorus
Carbohydrates are an essential nutrient, providing the body with energy, both short and long term. In large, stamina, endurance, and power, are completely dependent on adequate glycogen stores, and the only way to provide muscles with glycogen is to supply the body with carbs. Muscles have about a three hour glycogen store, and without constantly replenishing them, you experience glycogen depletion, and athletic performance suffers greatly, as well induces symptoms including fatigue and decreased cognitive ability. Carbohydrates also:
- are necessary for brain function
- supply the body with vitamins and minerals
- provide the body with fiber
I have to admit, before adopting the Paleo lifestyle, I had never touched a plantain. As far as I was concerned, they were just funky looking bananas that I had no idea what to do with. My first run in with a plantain, came in the way of crackers and called for really green plantains. I fell in love with them from the very first bite, (due mostly to the fact that I hadn't enjoyed a crunchy cracker in over a year), but I loved them nonetheless. After my first successful attempt, I began utilizing plantains in all sorts of recipes, from pancakes to brownies, and was intrigued with how versatile they were.
|At this point, your whole house will be enveloped in the sweet, fragrant aroma of fried plantains!|
Plantains are a jack-of-all trades and I couldn't believe it had taken me 30 some odd years to discover them. One of the many remarkable things I've learned since adopting a real food lifestyle, is the discovery of a whole new world of food that I never knew existed. I find myself venturing away from the mundane, predictable veggies, and going down the road less travelled as far as produce is concerned. Veggies I once avoided out of sheer ignorance, I now find myself not only trying, but loving as well. The overlooked, the shunned, the outcasts. Rutabagas, turnips, parsnips, beets, and plantains, have all found a safe haven of acceptance on our plates.
|All covered in cinnamon-coconut sugary goodness!|
Plantains are undoubtedly good in a variety of recipes, but sometimes simplicity rules. My all time favorite way to enjoy plantains are simply baked or fried. No frills, no bells and whistles. I enjoy making tostones, a classic Latin American dish which uses green plantains, fries them twice, and then are sprinkled with salt. But the most popular version, in my house at least, is using ripe plantains, fried in nourishing coconut oil, and sprinkled with coconut sugar and cinnamon. Prepared this way they really satisfy a sweet tooth and make for a nutritious post-workout snack or dessert.
So next time you're perusing the produce section, pick up a few plantains and give them a try. I promise you won't be disappointed!
1 fully ripe plantain, black, or yellow with black spots
3 Tbsp extra virgin coconut oil, or enough to cover bottom of pan
2 Tbsp coconut sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Mix coconut sugar and cinnamon in small bowl and set aside.
Prepare plantain by cutting off both ends. Score the plantain on two or three sides, then peel off skin. Slice into 1/4" -1/2" rounds.
Heat oil in small sauté pan over medium heat. Place slices in hot oil and fry for 1-2 minutes on each side until golden brown, taking care not to burn. If it seems like they are cooking to quickly, turn heat down to medium-low.
Remove from heat to a paper towel lined plate and immediately sprinkle on cinnamon-sugar mixture. Allow to cool slightly (or dive right in and suffer the consequences!)and enjoy!