Plantains (Musa paradisiaca) are harvested mature green and may or may not be ripened upon arrival at destination markets, since they are eaten at all stages of ripeness (green through black). A mature, green fresh cluster has a brilliant clean appearance, stalks which are firm and can still support fingers in an erect position, and a shaft that will show a white or whitish-colored wound when cut.
TYPES, VARIETIES & CUTS
Although plantains are in the same family (Musaceae) as bananas, they are higher in starch and not eaten raw like their sibling fruit.
Plantains are subdivided and classified by inflorescence, or bunch type, according to how its flowers or buds appear on the stem, which tie into the maturity of the fruit. Two types dominate the market: French or Horn, each with a number of varieties. French types, also sometimes called Hembra, include Dwarf (and semi-dwarf), Medium, and Great; Horn varieties include French Horn and are referred to either False (also called Macho in Central America) or True types. Varieties from growing region include Nendran from India and Dominico from Colombia (both French), and Dominico-Harton (Colombia) and Agbagda (Nigeria), both False Horn varieties.
CULTIVATION, STORAGE & PACKAGING
Store at 45-50°F for up to seven days; 50-54°F for longer than seven days; 90 to 95 percent relative humidity.
Plantains produce ethylene and are sensitive to chilling injury. Symptoms include peel discoloration and abnormal ripening or failure to ripen at all. Variety, maturity, and temperature variations will play a role.
Currently, there are no U.S. or Canadian good arrival guidelines for this commodity.
WEEKLY MOVEMENT & PRICES, USA
Source: Chart by Gallo Torrez Agricultural Price Trends (GTAPT), firstname.lastname@example.org, compiled from USDA data.
PESTS & DISEASE
The banana weevil interferes with root initiation, kills existing roots, limits nutrient uptake, reduces plant vigor, delays flowering, and increases susceptibility to other pests and diseases. Thrips feed in leaf sheaths, resulting in characteristic dark V-shaped marks on the outer surface of petioles. Damaged tissue becomes bronzed or rust-colored with age. Extensive damage may cover more of the fruit surface with reddish-brown or black discoloration and superficial cracks.
Yellow Sigatoka first appears as a tiny, yellowish-green fleck on a leaf , then becomes a long streak, eventually turning brown or rusty red. The spots soon develop a definite margin surrounded by a yellow halo. The center of the spot collapses and turns gray, but the margin remains a distinctive dark brown or black. Black Sigatoka’s first symptoms are chlorotic flecks on the undersurface of a leaf. The flecks develop into narrow rusty brown streaks as their color intensifies to dark red, brown, or black on the upper surfaces. The central tissue in the lesions soon collapses, and the lesions dry, becoming light gray with dark brown or black borders.
Cordana leaf spot results in pale brown oval patches, ranging from one to several centimeters in diameter. Lesions are surrounded by bright yellow halos. Necrotic portions have concentric zonations, which are most noticeable on the upper leaf surface.
Cigar-end rot symptoms include necrosis that begins at the tip of the fruit with localized darkening, occasional wrinkling of the skin, and premature ripening. These symptoms can appear one month after flowering begins. Under wet or humid conditions, powdery grayish dust appears on the shriveled black end of the fruit, giving rise to the “burn tip” appearance of the “cigar end,” from which the disease gets its name.
References: Agricultural Marketing Service, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, UC Davis Postharvest Technology website, USDA.