Oddly enough, plantains, like bananas, are not natives of the Caribbean
or South America. They were first cultivated in Asia thousands of years
ago and then made their tortuous way west to the islands, traveling in
the company of traders and explorers.
A cousin of the sweet bananas that are eaten by the truckload in this
country, plantains are, in reality, a fruit. Like bananas, the riper
they become, the sweeter the flesh. Unlike bananas, they must be cooked
The flavor of unripe plantains is mild and very starchy, a little bit
like potatoes, and they make a nice occasional substitute. In some
countries, especially in the Caribbean and South America, they are not
only the principal starch but are a principal food, served at virtually
Riper plantains, those with a dark, blackened skin, begin to taste
somewhat like a slightly sweet squash and can be prepared much like
sweet potatoes: You can bake plantains, boil plantains, mash plantains,
and so forth.
Plantain nutrition is low in fiber, high in carbohydrates, and provides
a good source of vitamin A.