The plantain (or platanos) is a banana, musa paradisiaca, which is eaten cooked rather than raw. Plantain are eaten in most tropical countries of the world. The largest exporters of bananas are the northern portions of South America as well as Central America. The fruit is eaten at all stages of ripeness from green to black. The image at the top of this page shows plantain in various degrees of ripeness.
Plantains can be prepared at any stage of ripeness. Make sure to pick a recipe appropriate for the fruit you have on hand. The plantain is normally eaten as a starchy staple food. It can be boiled, baked, or fried and served as a vegetable or made into a sweet dessert, depending on the degree of ripeness of the fruit.
Green: When the plantain is green it is quite starchy and the flavor is much like a potato. Uses include:
Yellow: When the plantains yellow the sugars begin to develop and impart a slight sweetness to the fruit. At this stage the fruit may show a few freckles of black. Use these plantains for dessert recipes.
Black: The plantain is at it's sweetest once it turns black. Normally you would want to use black plantains for dessert or any recipe where a sweet taste is desirable. You may purchase yellow plantains and store them in a paper bag until then ripen and turn black.