When is a Plantain Ripe? Learn about this Versatile Fruit

Plantains are versatile members of the banana family that are slightly larger in size than regular bananas and have a richer, starchier flavor. The fruits are usually cooked and enjoyed at all stages of ripeness from green to overripe.

A ripe plantain has a light yellow to golden peel, usually with black spots, and feels slightly soft. The taste is sweeter, less starchy and less acidic when compared to green plantains.

plantain at different stages of ripeness

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What color is unripe plantain

Unripe plantains are green to lime green in color. When the tree begins to bear fruit, the plantains are generally darker green, but as they become fuller and ready for harvest they will lighten in color.

Generally, plantains are harvested when they have a light lime green color and, as they ripen, they undergo color transitions from yellow green to light yellow to golden yellow and finally black spots will form on the skin.

plantain bunch on tree

What color is ripe plantain

Ripe plantains have a deep, golden yellow color and may have black spots on the peel. These spots form when the starches in the plantain become converted to sugars, meaning they’re becoming sweeter. As the plantain ripens further, the black spots will overtake the yellow and the peel will become completely black. You can use plantain even when the entire peel is black as long as the fruit does not smell spoilt.

ripe plantain for boiled plantain

Why plantains aren’t turning yellow

There are a number of reasons why plantains take a long time to turn yellow. Once they are freshly harvested and are still attached to the center stem, plantains will take several weeks before they start changing color. That’s why to stop plantains from turning quickly, they are left in breezy, open-air environments.

Once plantains are cut from the center stem, they can take about a week or so before you start seeing a color change. If that’s not happening, then place the plantains in a cardboard box or a brown paper bag. The darkness and enclosed space encourages the fruit to release ethylene gas which speeds up the ripening process. This gas is sometimes called the fruit ripening hormone.

Exposure to ethylene gas from other fruits will also cause the plantains to ripen faster, so place them in close proximity to apples, avocados, bananas, mangoes, papayas, and tomatoes.

Also, thin plantains that have not developed fully on the tree may not ripen quickly, if at all.

How long do plantains take to ripen

Once harvested, plantains will take about 1 to 2 weeks to ripen, depending on the room temperature of the environment they are in. In warmer, tropical climates, the plantains will ripen quickly within one week but, in colder conditions, they will take two weeks and more. So, it is best to store the fruit in a warm, dark, enclosed space to encourage it to release its ethylene gas for ripening.

How to preserve green plantains from ripening

There are a couple ways to slow down the ripening process for green plantains. These include:

  • store them in cool, breezy, open-air conditions – this will slow down the release of ethylene gas and its ripening effects.
  • store in the fridge in a plastic bag – this will slow down the ethylene gas production and release.
  • soak in water – it is best to submerge the tips or stems of the plantain. Change the water frequently and the plantains should stay greener for longer.
  • use ethylene absorbers – chemicals like potassium permanganate, activated carbon and silica gel can absorb ethylene gas. And less ethylene means a slower ripening time.

How do you know if a plantain is overripe?

Plantains are overripe when they have predominantly black skin, a softer, squishier texture, and a strong, sweet banana smell. The plantains also have thinner peels.

Of course, even if a plantain is overripe, it is still edible. Peel, cut into thin slices and deep fry them for sweet fried plantains. Or peel, mash and use them to make plantain bread.

Can you cook plantains when they are green?

Green plantains are used to make several dishes in Caribbean and Latin American cuisine. Mangu is one of my favorites – made by boiling green plantains, mashing and mixing with oil and plantain water. It is served with pickled red onions, eggs, and fried cheese.

Mofongo, tostones, and fried plantain chips are also made with green plantains. Here are more recipes:

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