What is Plantain?

The word plantain is loosely used to refer to any cultivated variety of banana which is used for cooking. There are about 100 cultivars of plantains. (Promusa.org)

Most plantains are longer and thicker than typical eating (dessert) bananas and are often angular in cross section. They can be green, pink, red, blackish-brown, and black-spotted yellow in colour.

Plantains are more starchy and less sweet than eating bananas. They can be eaten when ripe but are mostly cooked like starchy vegetables (potatoes).

Plantains are grown in Africa, especially west and central Africa; Latin America (South America, Mexico, Central America, and the islands of the Caribbean (West Indies) ); India, Malaysia, Pacific Islands.

Culinary Use of Plantain

Plantain Chips myfavouritepastime.com
  1. Slices of slightly unripe plantains are gently fried in oil and served as a side.
  2. Plantains are used in the North America to make plantain chips.
  3. Mountain plantains from the French Polynesia islands are eaten roasted or boiled.
  4. Plantains are often dried and powdered to make a light digestible starch called ‘pisang’ in Malay and is used in preparing sweetmeats.
  5. Used to make dishes like Laplap (Banana paste in coconut milk) or Simboro (Stuffed banana rolls in coconut) see: A Pacific culinary experience.

Diversity of Plantain subgroup

Even though bananas originate from the Asia-Pacific region, the diversity of Plantain cultivars is highest in Africa, especially West and Central Africa. (Promusa.org)

The Plantain cultivars grown in Latin America were introduced from Africa during the slave trade.  (Promusa.org)

Botanical Notes

The scientific names of most cultivated bananas are Musa acuminata, Musa balbisiana, and Musa × paradisiaca for the hybrid Musa acuminata × M. balbisiana, depending on their genomic constitution. The old scientific name Musa sapientum is no longer used. (wiki)

Most cultivated bananas are actually hybrids between two wild species, Musa acuminata and M. balbisiana. The wild species have seeds but the hybrid cultivated bananas are almost always seedless (parthenocarpic) and sterile, so they have to be propagated vegetatively. (wiki)

All modern plantain cultivars are triploid (have 3 sets of chromosomes). Many are hybrids between two wild species, Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana and the currently accepted scientific name for all such crosses is Musa × paradisiaca

Cultivars derived from Musa acuminata are more likely to be used as dessert (eating) bananas, while those derived from Musa balbisiana and hybrids of the two (Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana.) are usually plantains or cooking bananas.

Using Simmonds and Shepherds’ (1955) genome-based nomenclature system, cultivars which are cooked often belong to the AAB Group, although some (e.g. the East African Highland bananas) belong to the AAA Group, and others (e.g. Saba bananas) belong to the ABB Group.

Fe’i bananas are scientifically called Musa × troglodytarum and are informally referred to as “mountain plantains.” However, they do not belong to either of the two species that all modern cultivated banana cultivars descended from and their parentage is unknown (Wiki)

myfavouritepastime.com Last Updated: October 08, 2018

Author: Liz

I love everything food: eating, cooking, baking and travelling. I also love photography and nature.

2 thoughts

  1. My MIL once commented that the bananas I bought were too much for her to eat when she came for a visit. I found some mini-baby bananas at a specialty store and we all got a good laugh when I offered her one – she didn’t comment any more 🙂

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