Plantains may seem simply like the harder, starchier cousin to sweet tropical bananas, but this tropical fruit is highly prized throughout the world for its versatility in cooking.

Used in both savory entrees and sweet desserts, the plantain provides a unique flavor to a variety of dishes. It is most commonly fried, baked, or otherwise prepared, rather than simply eaten as-is.

However you prefer your plantains, if you’re a fan of the fruit,  there’s unfortunately restricted access to some varieties. Even worse is that the most commonly available option may be facing a temporary crisis as well.

What’s Going On?

Isla de Mala plantains are a unique aromatic variety that can be eaten without baking or frying first, making them an enviable delicacy. Part of their appeal (and intrigue) comes not only from the difference in taste, but the fact that they’re exclusively available in their country of origin: Peru. 

This extremely local availability is due in part to the specific growing and ripening conditions required that only occur in Mala, as well as the lack of logistics available for exports.

While the potential to take this unique crop worldwide exists, for the time being, getting a taste requires a trip to Peru.

As for plantains that are available stateside, there are rumblings of a shortage, due to Mexican producers of the crop threatening to suspend shipments over pricing disagreements.

The current rates are simply not profitable for growers, who are determined to protest until their demands of prices higher than $1.50 are met. Negotiations are slated to start with buyers and intermediaries, hopefully leading to a mutually beneficial arrangement so that exports may resume.

With Mexico’s shipments on hold, and exporters in Ecuador paying up to $13/box to ship their plantain harvest late last year, there’s a dwindling chance of obtaining this South American treat in the Northern hemisphere.

Of course, that might just be the excuse you need to enjoy your baked plantains while out on a summer excursion in Central or South America this year. After all, there’s no denying that tropical fruit tastes best in the tropics!

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