The National Plantain Festival – Celebrating Local Cuisine

The plantain was so important in the diet of the inhabitants of Puerto Rico during the 19th century that it was given the nickname of “nuestro pan” meaning “our daily bread”. Plantain continues to be an important ingredient in Puerto Rican cuisine. The local residents in the town of Corozal are so appreciative of this fact, that they have an annual celebration in the plantain’s honor. The National Plantain Festival will take place from 13th to 16th October 2007 and is a celebration of food, music and dance that is enjoyed by all.

Plantain is often mistaken for the soft sweet banana, as they are similar in appearance and come from the same family. Plantains are generally firmer and lower in sugar content than dessert bananas and are used when green and starchy, or when they are overripe and sweet. Plantains are staple foods in the tropical regions of the world and are treated in much the same way as potatoes when being cooked. They have a neutral flavor when unripe, have great nutritional value and are extremely digestible.

The plantain flowers that do not become fruit are also used for cooking, being chopped and fried with spices. The plantain leaf, which is broad, flat and sometimes exceeds two meters in length, is often used as a dish to serve food on. The delicious aroma released from the leaf when the hot food is placed on it adds to the appeal of the food. In some dishes, the leaves are wrapped around the ingredients before cooking, keeping the flavor of the food in.

Plantains can be cooked at any stage of ripeness and can be eaten raw once it is very ripe. They are even dried and ground into flour to be used in a multitude of tasty nutritional dishes. Plantain is also sliced in various ways and fried in boiling oil resulting in crunchy chips. Another popular way to serve plantain is as slices cooked in oil, put onto a skewer and sprinkled with sugar – a tasty treat especially popular among the children.

With the versatility of this popular staple food, it is understandable that the plantain has a special place in the hearts of the people of Puerto Rico. If you travel to Puerto Rico in October, be sure to visit the charming, hospitable town of Corozal and enjoy the National Plantain Festival.