The Plantain Versus The Banana: Similar Physically and Different Economically Bananas and plantains are botanically different species of the fruit family. Many differences and similarities exist between the two fruits. The book Bananas and Plantains, by J.C. Robinson, outlines the major and subtle differences of each. Bananas and plantains originated from the same place and appear similar physically. However, the banana is sweeter and considered a fruit while the plantain is used as a vegetable.
Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy, first classified the two fruits in 1783: “He gave the name Musa sapientium to all dessert bananas which are sweet when ripe and are eaten fresh. The name Musa paradisiaca was given to the plantain group which are cooked and consumed while still starchy” (Robinson 21). Through further classification the two fruits became known scientifically as M. balbisiana and M. acuminata (Robinson 1).
Bananas and plantains share the same source of origin in Southeast Asia (Robinson 1). Today, the banana and plantain are abundant in slightly different parts of the world. Historically, the banana traveled from its origin to more tropical climates around 500 A.D, then ended in the Caribbean and South America about a thousand years later (Robinson 14). Most modern bananas are grown in the Caribbean region. In contrast, the plantain traveled from its origin of Southeast Asia and is now produced primarily in South America. Physically, bananas and plantains appear similar except for their color. Bananas are typically yellow when ripe and green when not ripe. Plantains are green when not ripe and black when ripe. A plantain is longer than a banana, and has a thicker skin (Chiquita Bananas).
The major differences between plantains and bananas are their taste differences and their popular uses. Although they appear similar on the outside, inside they are quite different and are used for different purposes. According to the Chiquita banana website, bananas are much sweeter than plantains and are typically eaten raw (Chiquita Bananas). Bananas are considered a fruit while plantains are considered members of the vegetable family. Plantains can be eaten raw, but are mostly eaten when they have been steamed, baked, boiled, or fried. Plantains are used as though they are a vegetable and are a staple in Central American and South American diets.
Interestingly, plantains are produced primarily in South America and consumed locally. “Only 1.62% of the world plantain production is exported” (Robinson 6). Bananas became popular in the United States after they started being imported from Central America in the 1950s. Their less sweet relative, the plantain, did not receive the same popular treatment as the banana. The plantain is also referred to as the cooking banana. Plantains are not consumed often in the United States, as shown by the fact that less than two percent of plantains being grown are exported from the South American region. “The United States is the main banana import country” (Robinson 14). While the South American peoples diet consists primarily of plantains, their economy revolves heavily around the export of bananas primarily to the United States.
While they are similar physically and share the same origin, bananas and plantains are very different. The banana is sweeter and popular as an export around the world. The plantain, on the other hand, must usually be cooked and is more starchy. The plantain is consumed primarily in the South American and Central American regions. Two fruits that appear similar on the outside are different based on their usage and area of popularity. It is very interesting that plantains are a staple of the South American and Central American diet, yet the banana is the staple of the South American and Central American economy. These two fruits are similar structurally but serve very different purposes economically and in terms of diet.
Chiquita Bananas – Best Banana Recipes, Banana Nutrition &. More. Web. 25 Nov. 2011.
Robinson, J.C., and Victor Galan Sauco. Bananas and Plantains. 2nd ed. London: CAB
International, 2010. Print.
Bananas and plantains originated from the same place and appear similar physically. However, the two fruits are different in taste and the regions where they are primarily used.
Bananas vs. Plantains
1. Introduction: determining similarities and differences
2. Main body paragraph 1: classification
3. Main body paragraph 2: similarities
a. Physical appearance
4. Main body paragraph 3: differences