For countries that rely on import to stock up their plantain reserves, it can be very difficult to spot fully ripened fruits at the market counters.
And the reason is understandable, when plantains are harvested ripe and exported for such long distances, the risks of perishability (and therefore loss) shoots up dramatically, due to harvest and transport bruising, and also, due to temperature and humidity effects on the ripening process of the fruits.
By the time the plantains get to their destinations, they only have a few more days before they completely go bad.
So why not harvest them when the fingers are green and shiny and allow local distributors to ripen them artificially, or patronizing customers to ripen them fully at their kitchen’s countertop? The fruits are “self-ripening” after all!
If you’re one of the many plantain lovers out there, this can be a heartbreaking circle to find yourself in, but it’s certainly not the end of the world.
Plantains, when given the right time and perfect medium, humidity and temperature, can ripen naturally on their own. And using mellowing tricks we’ll be sharing with you in this article, you can be confident of making your dearest plantain muffins earlier than expected. Lets get to it.
How to ripen plantains
1) Let them sit for a while
Mature plantains, so far they’re in good shape and condition, always continue to ripen after they are harvested from the trees. If you’re not in a hurry to incorporate plantains into your food timetable, you can always allow them to ripen on their own which would undoubtedly produce the best flavors and texture.
Gauge the level of your plantain’s ripeness so you get the perfect bunch that works well for your fritters or tostones recipes.
To ripen plantains naturally, simply allow the cluster to sit undisturbed in a warm and well ventilated corner for 7 to 15 days, depending on the level of ripeness you have beforehand.
Refer to the article above to properly understand the stages of plantain ripeness.
The corners could be a well-ventilated room, a fruit store, on the counter, or near the refrigerator – because it’s usually warm.
When plantains settle in a nice and perfect humidity and atmosphere, they would ripen in as quickly as one or two weeks.
- It’s not necessary to keep plantains completely away from the sunlight as adequate amount of it can actually help in the ripening process too. This doesn’t advocate that you leave the bunch of plantains outside in the garage or lying plainly on in the backyard though. Hungry lizards and weevils would probably put them to early use before you. Just keep them in spaces that are well ventilated but warm. The sun will find its way in and the warmth will stimulate the production of ethylene — a ripening hormone by increasing the rate of enzymatic activities.
- Do not separate plantains into individual fruits. That may slow down the ripening process.
- Keep plantains away from places where kids regularly play or can easily reach them. The last thing you’d ever want is to repurpose your plantains fully intentioned for boiling into a milkshake! Iv’e done that before, and it’s totally annoying!
- Keep an eye on oxygen. Your plantains need them to respire and ripen well, so don’t suffocate them in cupboards or tight spaces or even in plastic wrappers.
- You may end up with bananas that are skinny (having lost significant amount of water weight), unevenly ripened or have peel colors that are aesthetically unpleasing by using this method. This would depends on the conditions that you set the plantains in to ripen though.
2) Wrap them up
One method that works to speed up the ripening process of plantains is to wrap them loosely in brown paper bags, in soft, clean, linen cloth or in newspaper wrappers and store them in perfectly ventilated areas that are warm.
This method takes advantage of the ethylene gas exuded by mature plantains which cause an increase in the fruit’s metabolism that results in a softer skin, creamier texture and banana-like note that is pleasant to the taste — basically, the changes that cause plantains to ripen.
That’s how the bunch you store up from the earlier method ripens too – using ethylene gas emitted by individual plantains. Actually, when you look up the bunch closely, you’ll notice that not all individuals on the bunch are at the same level of ripeness.
It’s the ripest of the bunch that exudes the most ethylene gas which triggers a corresponding increase in ethylene production of the sibling plantains until a peak level is achieved.
Green plantains wrapped in brown paper bags or newspaper wrappers, or even a soft cloth should take anywhere from 5 to 10 days to fully turn yellow or brown with traces of dark yellow.
If you prefer your bunch to take on a completely brown-black hue, let them sit some more, but make sure to check consistently to avoid running into a rotten mess. Some plantains might even ripen faster; outside of this time frame. It really depends on the storage conditions and the level of ripeness beforehand.
- Always use blemish free plantains, you never can tell when blemished ones will start to rot, and when they do, they most certainly will drag the rest of the bunch along with them. As the popular saying goes, “one bad apple can spoil the bunch!” Literally!
3) Ripen them faster in straw
You can ripen plantains even faster in a straw if you don’t have brown paper bags or your kids always make sure they turn the house upside down every time they play hide and seek.
Simply get a straw, and line up the bottom and internal circumference of a large container such as a pot, basket, or bucket with it. Next, put the plantains in and cover the top of the container with more straw. Leave uncovered and wait for 3 to 4 days, voila! You’ve got yourself a bunch of ripe plantains ready for devouring!
4) Bury them in uncooked rice
Uncooked rice is also a good medium for trapping ethylene gas which speeds up ripening in plantains. Simply get a bowl filled with uncooked rice, or a rice sack, and dip the plantains completely in and let sit for 3 to 4 days. Check consistently, twice per day of possible, as fruits may ripen quickly for others.
5) Smoke them up untill they turn yellow
Yes, you heard that right, but you probably misinterpreted the phrase. What we meant there, is to dig up a pith somewhere at the backyard and smoke the green plantains with smoke from burning leaves and let sit overnight or for two days. You’ll be surprised at how the plantains will transition. Here’s how to fully go about it.
- First, dig a pith at the backyard that is large enough to accommodate the cluster of plantains.
- Next, lay the blemish free plantains in the pith and cover the hole with a thin sheet such as zinc or wood. Make sure to leave a 2 to 3 inch space at one end of the covering.
- Next, light a fire with semi-dry leaves and send the hot smoke through the opening using a bamboo or hollow object such as a funnel or papers made into a cylinder.
- Do this for several minutes.
- Let the plantains sit overnight.
- Collect the plantains the next morning if they are ripe, or let sit for some more time i.e one more day.
- Use semi-dry leaves because they combust slower and produce more smoke than dry leaves.
How not to ripen plantains
In cold areas
Cold areas like the freezer or refrigerator inhibit the ripening activities of plantains, so you might want to reconsider storing plantains there, unless you want to keep the plantains at the very stage of ripeness they’re currently in, in which case, feel free to pop the plantains (peeled) in a ziplock back and store in the freezer for as long as you wish. Just bear in mind that the fruits won’t be as tasty or flavorful as the ones ripened naturally on the counter.
Also, keep in mind that refrigerating green plantains in order to delay ripening them on the counter for another date won’t work. Tropical fruits such as green plantains and bananas put inside the refrigerator or freezer don’t continue to ripen well after they are removed. So ripen them on the counter (if you wish to use them ripe) and pop them in the refrigerator for no more than one week, else they deteriorate in quality from within.
Green is edible too
Maybe you’re looking for ways to ripen your green plantains because you think they’re not edible at this state. But listen carefully, green plantains are just as edible as their yellow or brown counterparts.
Tropical countries such as Nigerian and the Philippines; some of the largest producers of plantain use these fruits at all stages of their ripeness including the green stage. Think of it, what better way to learn to how to eat plantains than from the masters themselves? Green plantains are perfect for making biscuits, chips, or for boiling and serving with roasted fish or meat kebab. They are even safe to eat raw!
In short, there are countless number of ways that green plantains can be incorporated into diets, some, the lingering mind can never even think of. You just need to open up a bit more. Google and see the wide varieties of raw and ripe plantain recipes that are out there. Then cover your head in shame when you quickly realize how stuck you are in a plantain groove.
Summarizing the message: Green plantains are waxy and they’re probably funky tasting too, but just remember that you don’t always have to ripen them before you can use them!