Plantains

A friend gave me a couple pups, or hijos (sons in Spanish) of plantains, or plátanos. One got taken out when the guaba tree fell down last year, but the roots put up two pups that are thriving so all is not lost. The other was fine though, and it is now producing fruit. If you look at the post from January 2015, you can see it in one of the photos or go directly here. It’s the little banana looking plant in the foreground a bit to the right. Judging by this post, it has apparently taken over a year and a half from pup to fruit.

The guaba tree that fell, by the way, regrew from the stump and we were very happy to see that it lived. Then, the brush fires came through last summer and killed it 😦

One day I noticed something fat emerging from the top of the plantain plant, something that looked different than a new leaf. It was indeed a flower and from there, things moved along very quickly. The next day I saw this

June 9th

June 9th

Bananas and plantains have the most exotic and unusual looking flowers! I documented the progress of a flowering and fruiting banana plant here. The plantain isn’t very tall, only a couple feet over my head unlike our huge bananas, and the flower progressed slightly differently. There were far fewer fruits but they were bigger, and the flowers at the ends were large.

I was told it’s about two months from flower to plantains that are ready to eat. Plantains are a staple food here so I’m sure I can ask anyone to look at them and tell me when it’s time.

Plantains are used green as a starchy vegetable. They are sliced or grated and added to soups and other dishes. Patacones are very popular and are eaten frequently. The green fruit is cut into one inch chunks and cooked either in water or in a bit of oil (different people advise different methods). Then, you take your special kitchen rock and smash the pieces flat, and fry them again in a bit of oil. The result is something that looks like a little pancake but tastes something like a french fry. (an aside, I have been told that green bananas can also be used like green plantains. I have tried this with a few things and it is true, but I found them hard to peel.)

I also like ripe plantains. When they get yellow they get sweet. They are often sliced on the diagonal and sauteed in a bit of butter. I’ve heard people say you can also add cinnamon and/or sugar, but I haven’t tried that yet since I think they are plenty good just as they are.

As far as I know the plantains are like bananas. When a plant fruits that’s it for that plant, but it will grow a pup to replace itself. There is already one growing beside my fruiting plant that’s about three feet high and getting bigger every day. Hopefully at some point there will be more pups so I can expand my plantain operation here.

Speaking of the big bananas referenced earlier, one of them fruited before I left on my US trip in March. We didn’t cut it down until earlier this month. The bananas had been looking quite fat for a while so we figured it was time. They were the best bananas ever, firm, sweet, and delicious so maybe it was good to leave them on the plant for a long time. The ones we didn’t eat fresh or give away were sliced and frozen for smoothies or a sweet, ice cream sort of snack.

616plantains12

Since I was running around the front yard with my camera, I also took a few photos of the heliconias I like so much. Unfortunately these photos are probably the last that will be taken with my handy little Canon since it has taken point and shoot to a new level. The display developed some black lines, and then more black lines, and now so many black lines it is impossible to see anything at all. The photos come out fine but all I can do is point in the right direction, shoot, and hope for the best. I have an iPhone now and can use that camera for daily use, but I miss the Cannon and will have to ask around to see if anything can be done with it.

616plantains11

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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20 Responses to Plantains

  1. I have a great recipe for Sweet Plantain Muffins, will email it to you.

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  2. That does look good. Thanks! I’ll have to make these.
    I got it to copy/paste here in case anyone else wants to give them a try

    Sweet Plantain Muffins
    By Muna Escobar, revised into Muffins by Mikkel Moller

    Ingredients:
     2 large very ripe plantains (they should be more black than yellow)
     1/2 c melted butter (I melt one stick in the microwave for 1 minute) (You CANNOT use
    margarine!)
     1/2 c milk
     4 large eggs
     2 tsp vanilla
     1/2 c sugar (Original recipe called for 1 ½ c sugar, I reduced that to ½)
     2 1/2 c whole wheat flour (I use plain all-purpose flour)
     2 tsp baking soda
     2 tsp baking powder

    Directions:

    1 Slice the plantain. Place in a food processor with melted butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla &
    milk. If using a blender, slice the plantains into very small piece so as to not burn up your
    blender.
    2 Process until plantains are mashed & mixture is well combined.
    3 Add dry ingredients & process until well combined.
    4 Pour into 2 well-greased muffin pans, makes 24 muffins. (I use canola oil spray)
    5 Bake at 350 C for about 18 minutes (more or less) or until toothpick inserted comes out
    clean. (My oven only has 2 temperatures, On or Off and this recipe works great)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sunni Morris says:

    Interesting. I love bananas and we freeze them for smoothies too. We had banana trees when I lived in TX. They towered over the house. And David ate a lot of plantains when he lived in Nicaragua in the 70’s.

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    • We had bananas in Florida too, but only 6-7 feet tall. Unfortunately some years a frost would come through and it took the poor things quite a while to recover. Here that isn’t a problem. I knew almost nothing about plantains before coming here though, so it’s been fun getting to know them.

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  4. marimarg says:

    Thanks, Chris, for the heliconias photo. I have seen them a few places and wondered what they were. Yes, I recall eating patacones in Ecuador.

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  5. Laureen says:

    Great photos! I would love to have a plantain plant in my backyard. We will see if there is a place to plant a pup when we get there. We started our long trek yesterday….

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    • You are on your way?!! Wow, congrats, happy travels! That’s exciting. These plants aren’t very big so don’t need a ton of space. Maybe you can find some like that.

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  6. Hi Kris, been missing in action for about a week, visiting my daughter in California (loathe to be back in North Carolina right now.)
    Been following your blog and comments via email excerpts though, meaning to get into the fray when I recovered from post vacation blues (not all gone yet but getting there slowly).
    Enjoyed reading about your plantains and bananas – they remind me of the myriad culinary uses they can be put to in many parts of the world. In India for example, the flowers are used to make a delicious vegetarian dish in Kerala, as are the green plantains themselves – often with the addition of grated coconut. Happy to share recipes when I can dig them up.

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    • The flowers can be eaten? Wow, never knew that. I’d be interested in your recipes when you have some time.
      It sounds like you had a good time with your daughter. Where in CA? One of mine is in Santa Rosa, north of San Francisco. I was just there and I’m already plotting my next trip back.

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  7. I love plantains! Thanks for the recipe Pedasi Pundit.

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  8. Right then, here’s a link to a recipie for a “raw banana” dish from India. Note the term “raw banana” stands in for either green (un-ripened) bananas or plantains.

    http://indianhealthyrecipes.com/raw-banana-curry-recipe/

    Highly recommended: serving your Indian food on banana leaves!

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    • This is fantastic! Thanks for the links. The one about the banana flower says the inner part of the banana trunk can also be eaten. I’ll have to explore both of these links more and experiment with some new cooking here. We don’t have access to many Indian spices here but I do have some curries from the US, and a good imagination. Too bad I don’t have a banana flower though 😦 I was advised to cut it off to make the plantains grow fatter so I threw it away a few days ago. I’m sure I can get another from someone though. Everyone seems to have plantains in the yard.

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      • You’re very welcome! Shame about the discarded banana flower (next time you’ll know though). I wondered about Indian spices in Panama – looking it up I understand they’re available in Panama City. The recipes I posted links to don’t require many spices, so they’re not really curries. You do need black mustard seed, and turmeric powder, dried red chilies, and fresh green ones (jalapeños don’t quite make the cut!). Oh and fresh grated coconut. Good luck trying them!

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        • An Indian guy I knew a few years ago said the spices aren’t available here, not sure if that included Panama City or not. And, things keep changing and more things become available all the time. Fresh green chilies? What we have aren’t hot, though I have seen those devilish habineros

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