February 17, 2008

Another plantain harvest

plantains, La Ceiba, HondurasPlatanos/Plantains

Banana flower, La Ceiba, HondurasThis stem of platanos (plantains) would never be considered a good harvest on a professional level but it's fine for us. We can never eat them all before they get ripe and neither of us cares much for ripe ones anyway. We always end up giving most of the bananas and plantains away.

Perhaps if we took better care of our plantain and banana trees we would get a better harvest. We never fertilize them and the only water they get is from the rain, unless we've had a really long dry spell. So, I would say that it's not bad for free food. Now that the plant has produced, it will be cut down because it won't produce again.

plantain flower, La Ceiba, HondurasI had great plans to follow the growth of the banana stalk from flower to harvest, but all I have to show for my plans are these two flower photos, taken two days apart in November. It was exactly three months from the date of the unopened flower photo to the date of harvest.

Mary in Panama, however, knows how to follow through on what she starts. You can see her banana development photos as well as a discussion of how to tell the difference between a banana and plantain at A Neotropical Savannah.

The plantains looked so good that El Jefe fried up a batch of tajadas immediately. Tajadas means 'slices' and that's what they are. They were really tasty. I like tajadas made from platanos much better than bananas. Bananas seem to soak up more grease, while the plantain tajadas are dry and firmer.

Honduran food, tajadasTo make tajadas, peel a green plantain or banana, slice it sort of lengthwise at an angle into 1/8 to 1/4 inch slices (3 to 6 mm.) They don't have to be perfect. Fry a few at a time for maybe 5 minutes, turning once during that time.

Plantains will turn this attractive golden yellow color (in the photo). Bananas will be white or greyish and browned around the edges. Usually if the plantains start to brown, they are overcooked. You just have to taste one to tell if they are done.

El Jefe has an interesting technique. He salts the slices before he fries them. I've never heard of doing that but, you know what? It really works. Plantain tajadas are so dry that the salt doesn't really stick afterward and they do need a little salt as the flavor is bland.

Bananas and plantains are one of the diet staples in much of Honduras. Tajadas are a good french fry substitute. They can be served as a side dish plain or with mantequilla blanca (a sort of crème fraîche) or with just about any kind of dip. They are good dippers for anafre (a hot bean and cheese dip) because they are stronger than tortilla chips and don't get soggy.

ajadas con repollo is a dish of tajadas topped with raw shredded cabbage and ground beef covered with a watery tomato sauce. Not one of my favorites but a very popular dish. I just don't like wet tajadas.

Another type of tajadas are the 'manufactured' packaged ones which are very thin, crispy, and salty like potato chips. Sometimes the packaged ones are flavored with lime or jalapeño.

Another recipe for green plantains is tostones, a crunchier version.

For everything you ever wanted to know about bananas, check out the online book, Fruits of Warm Climates, from Purdue University.

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