Have you ever come across what looks like a huge green banana at the grocery store and gotten a little too excited about your big banana score? That was definitely how I felt when I saw plantains for the first time, a fruit that's closely related to the banana. But plantains and bananas are different and equally amazing in their own ways.

Photo by Henry Doe | Unsplash

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Plantains are a member of the banana family, but have a completely different taste and means of preparation. They are starchier and lower in sugar, so that means they stay green even when they're ripe. Unlike the banana, they typically aren't eaten raw. Their tough texture and starchiness make for a rather unappealing snack—along the same lines as snacking on a raw potato.

Plantains are found in Latin, Caribbean, and African cuisines as delicious side dishes or cooked into the main course. They're treated as a vegetable rather than a fruit, accompanying savory dishes like casado or arepas
Elizabeth Unger

The plantain's cousin, the banana, is a much more traditional food in the US. Bananas are very versatile; they're eaten in smoothies, on toast, in baked goods like banana bread and banana cream pie, or just on their own. They're much smaller than plantains, yellow when ripe, and have thinner skin. 

Jocelyn Hsu

Though they're prepared in different ways, plantains and bananas do share some similarities. There are physical characteristics they share, like their curved shape and similar size and color. They're both highly nutritious, providing potassium, magnesium, dietary fiber, and Vitamin C. This means eating either one will aid your muscle function, create DNA, help digestion, and prevent cell damage.

The main takeaway here is that a plantain is its own thing, not just an XL banana. It will not cooperate if you try to prepare it as such, so please do not attempt to make a plantain peanut butter smoothie or a plantain pie. Even though plantains may not be the bananas on your shopping list, there are so many ways to make use of them too—you may as well get them since you're already at the store.