Growing Food, Plantains and Yuca

I love to grow things in the yard. If those things produce food so much the better. In this yard we have planted bananas, plantains, pineapple, yucca, and a few other interesting things. I even have a cacao plant which if the plant gods smile on us, might eventually produce fruit. Wouldn’t that be cool!

Food plants in the yard is a very common thing here. Besides fruit trees you often see guandu (pigeon peas, a Christmas holiday tradition), corn, plantains, squash, and peppers.

A friend gave me a couple plantain pups, and one of them fruited recently. Plantains are eaten green as like a starchy vegetable, sliced or grated into soups and other dishes, but the most popular use is ffor patacones. Those are fried chunks smashed flat and fried again until they are something like yummy little saucer shaped french fries. Ripe plantains are also very good. They turn yellow, and often you see them for sale so ripe they are partly black. Inside the ripe fruit is like a banana but firmer and larger. They are usually sliced on the diagonal and fried for a sweet treat after a meal. Today I put one in a smoothie with other fruit and it was great. A friend gave me a drink once of ripe plantain, milk, vanilla, and I’m sure more sugar than I should have but it was SO good, like rich, delicious liquid vanilla ice cream.

I don’t use a lot of plantains, but we have had very good luck freezing bananas. I may use one or two plantains for soup, and I think I’ll let the rest get ripe, slice and freeze them, and use them for smoothies. I have been using some of the frozen bananas in my oatmeal pancakes so maybe I’ll try the next ripe plantain and see how that works. (My absolute favorite though is oatmeal pancakes with mangoes! Who would have thought?)

You can see some of my yuca in the photos above (It’s called cassava in a lot of the world if you want to look up info). It has green sort of star shaped leaves on knobby gray stalks. It was growing wild at the end of the street so I just cut some and stuck some 8-10 inch pieces of the thick stems in the ground with a bit showing above the ground. It took off an grew! (so much it tends to fall over or get in the way when it gets really tall and leggy) I dug some a while back and it was the best yuca I’ve had, white, tender, and delicious. It’s very much like a potato so you can boil it like potato slices, or if you want something really good take the boiled slices and fry them in oil like french fries. I have also put them in the food processor to make something like mashed potatoes, and that’s also excellent.

The other day I dug out one root for some soup I was making. Then, I went back the next day to dig up the rest of the plant and this is what I found under the ground! I knew it was really big and I should have dug it some time ago, but I still had yuca in the freezer from the last plant.

This yuca seems a little different than what I’ve bought in the store. It has the typical brown skin but under that there is another thick, purplish white skin which can easily be peeled off with your fingers, which makes preparing it a snap. Thank goodness the stuff freezes well! Besides putting it in the soup, we had mashed yuca for dinner two nights. There are three quarts more of mashed yuca in the freezer along with 2 gallon size bags of cooked, sliced yuca. And, I still have about half of the super big root yet to cook.

Hungry? Come to our house!  Our freezer is one of the most useful things we have. We bought it because we bought all that pork last year, but now it has bananas, yuca, tons of mangoes I picked up when they were in season, star fruit, various things we bought in quantity from Pricesmart, and who knows what all else.

Life in Panama – now that we have the time we can cook everything from scratch, use what is available around us, and we eat really really well.



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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12 Responses to Growing Food, Plantains and Yuca

  1. ME BE in Panama says:

    I’m looking forward to doing something a friend showed me here, she takes the fresh fruit they’re not going to eat before it turns bad, purées it and freezes it in miniature ice cube trays. Once frozen she stores them in quart freezer bags and uses them in her water bottle!


  2. john allen says:

    Get someone local yo show you how to cook plantains. They are good when boiled as well as fried. But it has to be someone who knows how.


  3. Anonymous says:

    You are my hero Kris;) I can hardly wait ’til I have those amazing opportunities. Our best food sources are always local and homegrown!


  4. jim and nena says:

    Hola Kris,
    A breakfast of patacones y café and you are set for the day. And that is not “hablando yuca”. That is a true breakfast of champions.
    I’ll ask Nena and her sis about yuca prep, I am not a fan of starch but they have cooked up some dishes that I really liked. I have to ask them separately as Nena’s sis is older and “knows better” than anyone younger. I don’t want to get between them when they are “discussing” things. 🙂


    • I think you can use yuca anywhere you would use potatoes, at least that’s my current thinking. If you can get any good ideas from the ladies that would be cool but definitely don’t get yourself in trouble 😀


    • jim and nena says:

      OK, I’m a coward, plus I’m too lazy to write down everything they told me. So, I found this weblink that has most of what the gals told me and then some. I had forgotten about “old clothes soup”, one of the best remedies for cold and flu, better than chicken noodle soup even.

      As always with cooking, everyone has their own way of doing stuff, it’s the results that count.


  5. I make sweet plantain muffins with very ripe, almost black plantains. Easy as it is all done in the Cusinart, then in the muffin pan for 18 minutes. They freeze well for future use.

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