We all have them: Foods that trigger childhood memories or take us back to a special place and time. For Colombians and other Central and South Americans, those dishes of their childhood and homeland include plantains, whether fried green into a delicious, crispy tostón or baked ripe into sweet, soft, caramelized goodness.
Why do we love them so? Here are five reasons we can’t get enough of them.
1. They’re nutritious
Plantains are rich in dietary fiber, vitamins A and C. They are also rich sources of B-complex vitamins, particularly vitamin-B6. Plantains also contain more potassium and less sugar than their banana counterparts. They’re low in fat and are rich in magnesium and phosphate.
2. They’re always available
This may be the reason plantains are a major food staple in many parts of West and Central Africa, Central America, the Caribbean and parts of South America. They’re easy to grow and fruit year-round, making them easily available all the time.
3. They can be used at any stage of ripeness
If you’re unfamiliar with plantains and spot one that’s black at the grocery store, you may think it’s destined for the trash can. Those overripe plantains, however, are at their sweetest stage, where they start to lose their starchiness and caramelize beautifully when cooked. Green plantains, on the other hand, are firm and dense with hardly any sweetness. They’re more like a potato and great fried or boiled. And half-ripe or yellow-ripe plantains are slightly sweeter, softer and creamier, perfect for grilling or baking.
4. They’re versatile
One ingredient, so many options. Unlike bananas, plantains can’t be eaten raw but they can prepared in many ways. Boiled in soups, mashed, grilled, fried, baked, grated to thicken soups, or turned into dough for dishes like tamales, the plantain stars in a variety of dishes. At Artisan Tropic, we love using them to make waffles. No matter what you’re craving, plantains satisfy.
5. They make amazing chips
“The people of tropical America — so diverse ethnically and historically — are united by their love for plantain chips,” writes chef Maricel Presilla in her tome on Latin American food “Gran Cocina Latina.”
We couldn’t agree more. Plantain chips are one of the most popular preparations of green plantains. Known as chifles in Ecuador and Peru, mariquitas in Cuba and platanitos in Colombia, they’re perfect as a snack or appetizer, on their own or dipped in sauce.
Why do you love plantains?
Check back next week for our favorite healthy dips to enjoy with your Artisan Tropic snacks.