The real reason you should always cook plantains

Anyone who has mistakenly bitten down into a plantain has been in for a surprise. This Southeast Asian fruit has spread across the world over the centuries and has influenced the culinary landscape of Central America, Africa, and beyond (via African Foods) and has become known as a cooking staple the world over. It feels like a million recipes exist for this special fruit. Tostones, maduros, pisang goreng, kelewele, and more can tempt taste buds around the world but always have one thing in common — they involve cooked plantains.

According to Consumer Reports, the US has started to fall in love with the fruit, seeing a 41-percent increase in plantain imports between 2013 and 2018. While you can most likely find these tropical fruits in your local produce aisle, you might have a much harder time finding someone who recommends eating plantains raw. While the fruit is safe to eat raw, it has a bitter flavor that only disappears when cooked (via Livestrong).

What makes a plantain so special?

According to Livestrong, a plantain contains plenty of starch and much less sugar compared to its banana cousin, making it more closely resemble the texture and taste of potatoes. While the fruit lacks toxins, unlike yuca, its bitter taste when raw means that you have to cook it for the plant to come of any real use (via Food and Agriculture Organization). Luckily, a variety of methods exist to remove the acrid, starchy taste present in any kind of plantain.

Plantains can be prepared any way under the sun, with frying, boiling, grilling, and roasting the fruit yielding some of the tastiest results (via Livestrong). Don't assume you can only take advantage of yellow plantains — green plantains have an even starchier texture and can get flattened and fried to create the Central American classic dish tostones (via Allrecipes). While frying might not yield the healthiest results for anyone looking to stick to a strict diet, the fruit has much of the same vitamin and mineral contents as the typical banana, and as long as you don't overindulge, plantains provide a great occasional nutrient boost (via Livestrong). Next time you question whether or not you should cook a plantain, have no fear — just remember that the plant can't hurt you, and if you bite into it raw, it'll feel like you've bitten into a raw potato.