Discover the difference between the highly nutritious and handy yellow fruit and its starchy sister, the plantain
Even though bananas are grown in the tropical coastal areas of Mexico, every corner market and grocery store carries a variety of them, and they are priced just right. Remember though that there are plantains and then there are bananas.
The largest is certainly the plátano macho reaching 20 cm (8 inches) in length - these looks like gigantic bananas, they vary in color from bright green to nearly black and are used just like a starchy vegetable (much like potatoes)while the Lady Finger bananas can be as small as 7 cm (3 inches) and are eaten as a fruit.
There are fuzzy bananas with bubblegum-pink skin, some with a green and white striped peel with an orange sherbet pulp and those that when cooked taste like sweet strawberries.
Plantains are used at every stage of ripeness. It is best to purchase them green at the market and left to ripen to different phases needed for different dishes: green for fritters, yellow for fried plantains served with rice, fish, or as dessert, and black for plantain “dough”.
Bananas, on the other hand, shouldn’t be too hard or buttercup yellow (not sweet enough), nor black (too mushy and pulpy). A canary yellow color with a slight firmness is the perfect antidote.
Like the banana, the plantain is a herbaceous flowering plant where the female flowers turn into fruit. Compared to bananas, plantains are lower in both moisture and sugar, and they are not eaten raw.
The strong Afro-Caribbean culinary roots of Veracruz mean that plantains are used to make dough for empanadas as well as a variety of fritters. Fried plantains are also a common dessert food, drizzled with sweetened condensed milk or chocolate sauce, and either powdered with cinnamon or cacao.
In Puebla, as well as in central and southern Mexico, plantains are an integral part of the mole known as manchamanteles. In Oaxaca, they add plantains and pineapple to a spicysweet lentil stew, and in Chiapas they use them in vegetable soup.
Both plantains and bananas are high in dietary fiber, highly nutritious and a good source of vitamins.