Plantains contain more starch and less sugar than dessert bananas, therefore they are usually cooked or otherwise processed before being eaten. They are always cooked or fried when eaten green. At this stage, the pulp is hard and the peel often so stiff that it has to be cut with a knife to be removed.
Mature, yellow plantains can be peeled like typical dessert bananas; the pulp is softer than in immature, green fruit and some of the starch has been converted to sugar. They can be eaten raw, but are not as flavourful as dessert bananas, so are usually cooked. When mature, yellow plantains are fried, they tend to caramelize, turning a golden-brown color. They can also be boiled, baked, microwaved or grilled over charcoal, either peeled or unpeeled.
Plantains are a staple food in the tropical regions of the world, ranking as the tenth most important staple food in the world. As a staple, plantains are treated in much the same way as potatoes and with a similar neutral flavour and texture when the unripe fruit is cooked by steaming, boiling or frying.
Since they fruit all year round, plantains are a reliable all-season staple food, particularly in developing countries with inadequate food storage, preservation and transportation technologies. In Africa, plantains and bananas provide more than 25 percent of the carbohydrate requirements for over 70 million people.
Plantain is 32% carbohydrates with 2% dietary fiber and 15% sugars, 1% protein, 0.4% fat, and 65% water, supplying 122 calories in a 100-gram serving (table). Raw plantain is an excellent source (20% or higher of the Daily Value, DV) of vitamin B6 (23% DV) and vitamin C (22% DV), and a good source (10-19% DV) of magnesium and potassium.Containing little beta-carotene (457 micrograms per 100 grams), plantain is not a good source of vitamin A
Health benefits of plantain
Plantains are very reliable sources of starch and energy.
Plantains contain a high amount of dietary fibre, which helps ensure healthy bowels and reduces constipation.
Plantains have more vitamin C than bananas. Consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen- free radicals.
Plantains have more vitamin A than bananas. In addition to being a powerful antioxidant, vitamin A plays a vital role in the visual cycle, maintaining healthy mucus membranes, and enhancing skin complexion.
As in bananas, they too are rich sources of B-complex vitamins, particularly high in vitamin-B6 (pyridoxine). Pyridoxine is an important B-complex vitamin that has a beneficial role in the treatment of neuritis, anemia, and to decrease homocystine (one of the causative factors for coronary artery disease (CHD) and stroke episodes) levels in the body.
Plantains also contain folates, niacin, riboflavin and thiamin. Folates (folic acid) are essential for healthy pregnancy.
Plantains also provide adequate levels of minerals such as iron, magnesium, and phosphorous. Magnesium is essential for bone strengthening and has a cardiac-protective role as well.
Plantains have more potassium than bananas. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure, countering negative effects of sodium.
Plantains are famed to be diuretic and can help prevent kidney and bladder problems.
Plantains ease the discomfort associated with the menstrual period.
Purchase suitable land to start your own plantain farm
Plantain needs the right kind of climate to grow- for it cannot survive in too hot or too cold environments. If you already have land you need to ensure that it meets these basic conditions.
Plantains grow best in conditions where the soil retains water, that’s why plantain plantations in Nigeria are irrigated. You may not have the means to carry out irrigation so you should consider soils that retain water, have a good humus layer and you should always improvise by incorporating animal manure to the soil to improve on the humus and texture of the soil to retain water. You can also make your own compost by using chicken manure to increase its fertility.
Clearing the land
Once you have purchased your land, you will need to clear it.
Clearing of land includes removal of trees, brush, stumps and stones amongst other obstacles. This is necessary to increase the area of the land base for producing crop, or to make your land suitable for plantain farming operation.
Depending on your budget, available equipment and the location of your plantain farm, you can go for either manual or mechanised clearing.
Prepping the land
Once the land for your plantain farm is cleared, you will need to take certain steps for making the land suitable for growing plantain. This is necessary for creating the right soil conditions for a healthy growth of these young plants, and to ensure that your plantain plantation is successful in the long run.
Land preparation should be done long before you start the process of transplantation of the plant suckers. Although this step may require significant efforts and investment, you cannot skip it, or you will have an unsuccessful harvest, which will set back your plans of owning a successful plantain farm.
Prepping the land will also enable you to structure and plan your farming operational processes and procedures.
The areas that you must consider are:
The availability as well as the quality of water for irrigation that you have
Mechanical actions that will need to be implemented and how they will be implemented
Selection of land
Any chemical requirements for improving the soil before transplantation
Equipment and tools that will be required for the cultivation of plantain
Labor and manpower requirements
Purchasing Plantain Suckers
Plantains are propagated vegetatively, from corms, which are underground bulbs or rhizomes or from suckers, which are shoots that grow from the bud that is at the plant base.
Since the use of the entire corm is quite laborious, the more common method is to grow those using small corms. The mother plant makes three kinds of plantain suckers, namely sword suckers, maidenheads and water suckers.
Sword suckers come with a short pseudostem and have narrow leaves, similar to blades, along with a narrow base. When they mature, they have fruitful and healthy pseudostems.
Maidenheads come with a pseudostem that is large and does not produce any fruit; white water suckers have broad leaves with short pseudostems.
Water suckers do not have a strong attachment to the rhizome, and produce less fruit with weaker plants. They are less preferred in comparison to large sword suckers and maidenheads.
It is essential that you purchase suckers only from a farm that is reputable and trusted. There is no fixed price for these, a conventional sucker can cost anywhere around N50 to N100, while a hybrid will cost around N120 to N200. This price may again, vary depending on where you procure it.
It is essential that before you begin your plantain plantation, you eliminate any grass or weed competition. To prevent any re-growing of weed, you can use mulching.
However, for turf grass, you will need to either use herbicides or go by the hoeing technique. If you are planning to plant for producing fruit, there should be a space of at least 8-10 feet in between. Irrigation needs to be applied at regular intervals to keep the soil moist. Ensure that there is no standing water since plantains are not tolerant to wet conditions.
In-organic and organic fertilization
After planting, you will need to manure them using a combination of household waste, poultry manure and woodash for improving the growth and yield of plantains. It will also help to reduce the infestation by nematodes and borer weevils.
Organic manure helps maintain the temperature of the soil, conserve its moisture content and help regulate soil acidity. This will help you make the most of your efforts for plantain farming in Nigeria.
Pests And Diseases
Panama disease is caused by a fusarium soil fungus which enters the plants through the roots and travels with water into the trunk and leaves, producing gels and gums that cut off the flow of water and nutrients, causing the plant to wilt, and exposing the rest of the plant to lethal amounts of sunlight.
Black sigatoka is a fungal leaf spot disease first observed in Fiji in 1963 or 1964. Black Sigatoka (also known as black leaf streak) has spread to banana plantations throughout the tropics from infected banana leaves that were used as packing material. It affects all main cultivars of bananas and plantains impeding photosynthesis by blackening parts of the leaves, eventually killing the entire leaf. Starved for energy, fruit production falls by 50% or more, and the bananas that do grow ripen prematurely, making them unsuitable for export.
Bunchy top virus
Bunchy top virus jumps from plant to plant using aphids. It stunts leaves, resulting in a “bunched” appearance. Generally, an infected plant does not produce fruit, although mild strains exist which allow some production. These mild strains are often mistaken for malnourishment, or a disease other than BBTV. There is no cure; however, its effect can be minimized by planting only tissue-cultured plants (in vitro propagation), controlling aphids, and immediately removing and destroying infected plants.
Bacterial wilt is a bacterial disease caused by Xanthomonascampestrispv. musacearum. After being originally identified on a close relative of bananas, Enseteventricosum, in Ethiopia in the 1960s, BBW occurred in Uganda in 2001 affecting all banana cultivars. Since then BBW has been diagnosed in Central and East Africa including the banana growing regions of Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi, and Uganda.
Plantain trees produce large bunches of heavy fruit, which may cause the tree to slump or droop. If you find that your plantain tree is struggling to stand up due to the weight, use string and bamboo poles to tie and prop the tree.
Fruits appear within 90 to 120 days after the tree flowers. Upon fruiting, plantains are typically ready for harvest within 6 to 8 months.