It's bananas, and I love them!! Although we know the word banana in Puerto Rico, we regularly refer to this delicious fruit, green or ripe, as guineo.
Today I am not spending time explaining the more popular ripe yellow bananas; rather, I would like to go more in-depth through some other varieties.
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Bananas as a food source
Bananas are a great food source for Puerto Ricans since we eat the fruit at many different stages. Also, they grow literally everywhere on the island, and I could confidently say that you can grow bananas in your backyard, even in more urban scenarios. Therefore, you will always find a banana in the market or at the Puerto Rican kitchen, from green to ripe. Green bananas are eaten cooked, typically served in an escabeche. Escabeche can be served either cold or hot. Guineos en Escabeche are delicious.
Bananas are a great source of potassium, vitamin B complex (I call it a complex because it includes B6, riboflavin, and biotin), Vitamin C, magnesium, and fiber. An edible multivitamin! Bananas are also great for regulating blood pressure. Check out this article from Healthline.com for more information on the health benefits of bananas.
Bananas come in a variety of sizes, sweetness, and starchiness. The smallest variety of the bunch is what we affectionally call guineos niños, baby or kid bananas, due to the relatively short size compared to the standard banana. These guineos niños are also quite starchy, and even when ripe, they are not as silky to the tooth as regular bananas. In my opinion, they are like a cross between the density of plantain and the sweetness of a regular banana.
Another word for bananas in Latin American countries is platano, but for Puerto Ricans, a platano means Plantain. Plantains are large, twice as big as bananas, and must be eaten cooked. A plantain could easily feed up to four people, depending on its application.
The beauty of plantains and bananas is that you do not just get one fruit when they grow. There could be up to twenty fruits in one banana bouquet or ramillete. We also call the bouquet mano because the bananas (I am using this term to refer to all banana varieties) look like fingers while in the bunch.
Like bananas, we eat platanos or plantains at all stages of ripeness in Puerto Rico.
Green plantains are great to make mofongo. Mofongo is a quick-fried and mashed plantain dish with pork fatback or bacon and garlic. Tostones, sliced plantains that are fried and pressed into discs, make a great snack or side dish. And, arañitas or spiders, are shredded plantain mixed with batter and then fried which resembles haystacks or their namesake spiders. Another way of eating green plantains is by boiling them and serving them with olive oil and garlic, like potatoes.
Most of the same cooking methods apply for ripe plantains except for tostones and arañitas because the ripe plantain is too soft to press in that manner.
Cooking Ripe Plantains
The most popular way of preparing ripe plantains is by frying them as a side dish. When the plantains are ripe, we call them maduros or amarillos. I personally remember calling them amarillos while growing up.
With the amarillos, if sliced lengthwise into ribbons, use the ribbon to make Sweet Plantain Lasagna (Pastelón), which is a meaty pie with cheese and vegetables. Or, fry the entire plantain, cut a slit lengthwise, and stuff it with your favorite filling to make a plantain boat or canoas de platano maduro.
Banana leaves are also used in our cooking as a food wrap during the cooking process. It adds moisture and flavor to your food. One great dish in which the leaves are as important as the items we are wrapping is pasteles . We also use the leaves to cover arroz con gandules or any stewed rice or dish. Below are images of when I used Banana Leaves to cover my picnic pork roast to make Cochinita Pibil.
I live in Florida, where the population is about 30% Hispanic. Finding frozen banana leaves is quite easy. If you live in the midwest, that might be a different story. For that reason, aren't we lucky to have Amazon? You can find fresh Hojas de Platano (Fresh Banana Leaves) or Frozen. Although banana leaves are a great addition to the recipe, the leaves are not a must if you cannot find them. Here are a few substitutes for the Banana Leaves: cabbage, corn husks or parchment paper.
How to peel bananas and plantains
This method works well for any green banana or plantain. Although it works well with ripe plantains as well.
Cut bananas off of the banana bunch. Also, cut the bottom of the banana. For this method, I will refer to the end that attaches to the "hand" as the top and the dark end the bottom.
Then cut the skin only without cutting into the fruit lengthwise.
At this point, you can separate the skin of the fruit with the blade of the knife or begin cooking it to remove the skin later.
I hope I have inspired you to try green bananas when you find them at the store. Here are some other recipes to use bananas or plantains:
The Girl On Fire
Hello! Zoe is a taste bud stimulator by day and a food blogger by night. Here you’ll find delicious recipes, some cooking advice, and great things to share. To me, Passion is what fuels us, what moves us, and keeps us going.
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