What are Plantains?
Plantains and yellow bananas belong to the same family, from the genus Musa. However, their flavor profile are as different as night and day. Whereas yellow bananas are sweet, their counterparts are nowhere near the sweetness range.
Plantains are also known as cooking bananas. This is because of their high starch content, which renders them unpalatable when raw. As such, they are cooked when green.
Depending on the ripeness as well as variety, they can have green, black, red, yellow or brown skin.
Cooking bananas first existed in southeastern Asia regions of Papua New Guinea as well as Malaysia.
Nowadays, cultivation has spread to all tropical and subtropical regions. In fact, numerous cuisines lay claim on these filling starchy foods.
Green bananas are popular in African, Indian, Caribbean, Asian as well as South American cuisines. Truth be told, the culinary uses of plantains have been embraced globally.
As part of these rich cuisines, they are served as a side dish, or as the main source of carbohydrates in a meal. Additionally, plantains are versatile. As such, you can enjoy them boiled, baked, mashed, deep-fried or dried. Not only this, you can grind them into meal and incorporate in savory dishes.
Their enormous leaves also play crucial roles in these communities. For instance, they are normally used for wrapping, cooking and displaying foods. In fact, you don’t need plates when you have banana leaves.
Other people grind the leaves into powder and use it as meat tenderizer. The leaves, stalks and peel also make a wonderful livestock feed. Additionally, various communities use them in construction – for roofs, walls, brooms, furniture and fences.
Nutritional Facts and Health Benefits
These plain looking banana members are nutrient-packed. Cooking bananas are high in carbohydrates. In fact, a medium-sized plantain contains 57g of your daily carbohydrate requirements.
Did you know that this type of carbohydrate is known as resistant starch? It is beneficial for promoting satiety and regulating blood sugar. Hence, plantains are perfect for weight control.
Besides this, plantains are high in potassium, fiber, vitamins B6, C, A, magnesium and iron. Furthermore, they are low-fat as well as cholesterol free.
All these nutrients play crucial roles and offer valuable health benefits. These include: relieving constipation; lowering of blood pressure; mitigating anemia; providing energy; facilitating proper growth and development.
How Long do Plantains Last?
Plantains are perishable. How long they eventually last depends on your storage techniques.
Therefore, let’s look at different forms of plantains and their shelf life:
Shelf life of uncooked green bananas (in the pantry)
Uncooked, whole plantains keep well on the counter, provided they are away from moisture and heat. Overly green ones last up to 3 weeks. Nearly ripe ones keep well for 2 weeks, so consume within that time.
Shelf life of raw, peeled plantains
Peeled green bananas oxidize quickly – which causes the flesh to darken. As such, utilize as soon as you peel them.
For a longer shelf life, immerse them in any acidic liquid like lemon juice. Pack them in airtight plastic containers and refrigerate. Use within 1 day.
How long do green, unpeeled plantains last? (in the fridge)
Aside from the counter, you can safely refrigerate plantains, especially the ones that are starting to ripen or ripe ones. Store them in the vegetable crisper using an airtight bag. They keep well for up to 1 week.
Can you freeze green bananas?
You can safely freeze raw plantains, but not with the skin on. When freezing, peel and segment into slices or mash them altogether. Mix with lemon juice and store in freezer-friendly airtight bags.
Under constant freezing temperature of 0°, they keep well for up to 1 year.
How long do cooked plantains last? (in the fridge)
Cooked plantains deteriorate fast. Plantains can be cooked in numerous ways – fried, baked, steamed, curried, stewed and grilled. Additionally, Drier cooking methods like frying can prolong the shelf life.
Refrigerate any leftovers in airtight containers. For plain cooked plantains, consume within 3 days at most. If the plantains are part of other ingredients for a meal – like stew, the shelf life will depend on the item which deteriorates the fastest.
How to Preserve Plantains for a Longer Shelf Life
To maximize on the shelf life of plantains, opt for timeless food preservation techniques. These include:
Plantains are commonly ground into meal. This is done to extend the shelf life. In order to grind, you have to dry them thoroughly. Once well dried, you can use a pestle and mortar, blender or a food processor to grind into flour. For an even smoother consistency, sieve the flour before storing.
Commercially made plantain flours undergo various pre-treatments to maximize the shelf life.
Shelf life of plantain flour/meal
Plantains are fat-free, hence you don’t have to worry so much about rancidity. However, the flour will still lose potency after a while.
Well ground plantain flour keeps well for 6 months. Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. Reseal after each use.
Drying (plantain chips, jerky)
Drying guarantees a longer shelf life due to moisture extraction. You can dry plantains by deep-frying them into chips. Additionally, you can use the oven, natural sunlight or food dehydrator.
- Peel cleanly – avoid leaving streaks of skin as they may contain dirt which exacerbates spoilage.
- Slice evenly for thorough drying.
- When well dried, they should be crispy and brittle.
- Store in airtight containers, in a cool, dry place.
Shelf life of dried plantains
Well dried plantains keep well for up to 1 year.
Pickled green plantains are a mouth-watering delicacy. They make a wonderful addition to salads and savory dishes. They form part of a popular dish known as “Guineos en escabeche”.
When pickling plantains,
- Wash and peel well.
- Slice into desirable shapes. Place in well sterilized mason jars.
- Prepare brining/pickling solution. Basic ingredients include: vinegar, water, lemon/lime juice, seasonings and herbs of your choice. Boil and reduce the ingredients until the flavors integrate well. Pour over arranged plantain slices and put the lids on.
- Leave overnight or for a few days for the brine to permeate through.
How long do pickled plantains last (unopened and opened)
Pickles are fairly shelf stable. Store unopened pickled plantains in the pantry, away from direct light.
They last for 1 year in good quality.
Store-bought pickled ones can last for up to 2 years.
On the other hand, refrigerate opened jars and use within 6 months.
It is fairly easy to spot spoilage. Here’s how:
- Softened flesh
- Oozing of creamy liquid
- Development of dark spots on both skin and flesh
- Pungent smell