Plantain is a major food staple in Africa, and West Africa is one of the major plantain-producing regions of the world, accounting for approximately 32% of worldwide production.
Plantains are the fruit of the Musa Paradisiaca, a type of banana plant. Many people confuse plantains with bananas, and although they look a lot like green bananas and are a close relative, plantains are very different.
They are starchy, not sweet. They are used as a vegetable in most recipes in Africa, and not eaten as a fruit, although technically, they are a fruit. They are usually cooked before being eaten. African Plantain trees fruit all year round, however, the major harvest usually runs through November to February.
Plantains start out being green in colour. As they ripen, their colour changes from green to yellow to black. Naturally, green plantains contain the least amount of sugar and are best used for savoury recipes, while black plantains contain the most amount of sugar (for a starchy vegetable!), and are best incorporated in a mash.
Nutritionally, plantains contain more vitamins A and C than banana, and they are rich sources of vitamin B6, potassium and fibre.
How you cook plantain as a component of an African recipe depends on what part of Africa you are from. Plantains can be boiled, roasted, baked or grilled. In Nigeria, plantain is enjoyed mostly sliced diagonally and fried, a dish called Dodo, or roasted on top of hot charcoals. This is a popular street food called Bolé.
Ghana's most popular street food Kelewele is made from plantains, diced, spiced and fried. In the Congo region, plantains are either peeled, sliced, and boiled, or cut into rondelles and fried in oil, a dish called Makemba.
So now that you are ready to start exploring the world of plantain, head out to your local grocery store, where you should find plantain in the fresh produce section, usually next to other tropical fruits like mangos and coconuts. Buy a couple of plantains and enjoy a whole new world of African Plantain recipes.