Meet Other People and Cook: Culinary Social Networking

Want a new salty or sweet starch--plantains to the rescue!

Plantains are a major food staple in Africa and South America. Plantains are in the banana family and look similar to "dessert" bananas that most people eat in cereals or smoothies. The two main plantain varieties, however, green and yellow (ripe) are cooked.

Green plantains have a neutral taste and are fried. They are usually cut thinly and spiced with seasonings like salt, garlic, parprika or cumin. Yellow plantains (or ripened plantains) are very sweet and are usually cooked in chunks and paired with salty foods like fish to balance the taste. Green plantains are usually paired with sweet tasting foods.

In cities around the U.S. immigrants from the West Indies, Africa, and South America have pushed demand for plantains making them more widely available in the United States. Plantains grow all year long making it a starch you can substitute potatoes or rice with anytime. Plantains are a good source of potassium and dietary fiber. Technically plantains are a fruit. Communities in Latin America and Africa living in mountains or forests with inadequate food storage, preservation and transportation technologies thrive on plantain.

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