The banana tree is one of the oldest known plants and probably one of the first to have ever been domesticated. However, it was the buds of the banana tree that were initially eaten and not the fruit, since these were not very fleshy and were full of inedible seeds. As for the fibrous stems, they were used for making nets.
Over time, human selection led to the creation of the varieties that are presently consumed. From a culinary point of view, dessert bananas (or sweet bananas) are different from cooking bananas, as the latter remain firm when cooked because of their low sugar and high starch content. The banana plantain certainly falls into this category.
Commonly eaten in many parts of Africa, the Caribbean Islands, in Central and South America, and in Southern India, the plantain is prepared in many ways as a vegetable side dish or as a starchy food much like the potato. Normally sold when its skin is green, this fruit can be peeled much easier when it is blanched for 5 minutes in boiling salted water.
A traditional method of preparing plantain is to cut it into thin slices and fry it like chips. My suggestion here is that you simply sauté the plantain in a frying pan. But be careful! To get the perfect result, you should let it ripen for a few days on the shelf, until its peel turns completely black. This way, it becomes sweet, soft and very tasty.
Try our recipe for Sautéed Plantains
Originally published in the Journal de Montréal on October 8, 2011.