plantain


plantain
plantain1
/plan"tin, -tn/, n.
1. a tropical plant, Musa paradisiaca, of the banana family, resembling the banana.
2. its fruit, eaten cooked as a staple food in tropical regions.
[1545-55; earlier pla(n)tan < Sp plá(n)tano plantain, also plane tree < ML pla(n)tanus, L platanus PLANE3]
plantain2
/plan"tin, -tn/, n.
any plant of the genus Plantago, esp. P. major, a weed with large, spreading leaves close to the ground and long, slender spikes of small flowers.
[1350-1400; ME plauntein < OF plantein < L plantagin- (s. of plantago), deriv. of planta sole of the foot, lit., something flat and spread out, like the broad leaf of the plantain; akin to Gk platýs FLAT1; see PLATY-]

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I
Any of about 265 species of familiar garden, lawn, and roadside weeds in the genus Plantago of the family Plantaginaceae.

Distinctively, the leaves lack a proper blade. What appears to be a blade is an expanded petiole (leafstalk), with several parallel main veins, emerging at the base of the stalk. Small flowers are borne in spikes or heads atop long leafless stalks. The greater plantain (P. major) provides seed spikes for bird food. Ribwort, or English, plantain (P. lanceolata) and hoary plantain (P. media) are troublesome weeds. Some species have been useful in medicine (e.g., as an ingredient in laxatives).
II
Tall plant (Musa paradisiaca) of the banana family that is closely related to the common banana (M. sapientum).

Believed to have originated in Southeast Asia, the plantain grows 10–33 ft (3–10 m) tall and has a conical false "trunk" formed by the leaf sheaths of its spirally arranged, long, thin leaves. The green-coloured fruit is larger than that of the banana and contains more starch. Because the starch is maximal before the fruit ripens, the fruit is not eaten raw but is boiled or fried, often with coconut juice or sugar as flavouring. It may also be dried for later use in cooking or ground for use as meal, which can be further refined to a flour. The plantain is a staple food and beer-making crop for East African peoples and is also eaten in the Caribbean and Latin America.

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plant
      (Musa paradisiaca), plant of the banana (q.v.) family (Musaceae) closely related to the common banana (M. sapientum). The plantain is a tall plant (3–10 metres [10–33 feet]) with a conical false “trunk” formed by the leaf sheaths of its spirally arranged leaves, which are 1.5 to 3 m long and about 0.5 m wide. The fruit, which is green, is typically larger than the common banana. The botanical classification of plantains and bananas is so complicated that plantain is variously viewed as a subspecies of the banana, and the banana as a subspecies of plantain.

      The edible fruit of the plantain has more starch than the banana and is not eaten raw. Because plantain has a maximum of starch before it ripens, it is usually cooked green, either boiled or fried, often with coconut juice or sugar as a flavouring. It may also be dried for later use in cooking or ground for use as a meal. The plantain meal can be further refined to a flour. In some parts of East Africa the plantain is a staple food and beer-making crop, notably in central and eastern Uganda and Tanzania (formerly Tanganyika), and particularly in the area inhabited by the Chagga people.

      The plant is believed to have originated in Southeast Asia. Two groups of plantains are thought to have a common origin: the horn plantain and the French plantain. Both types grow in India, Africa, Egypt, and tropical America. The French plantains also occur in Indonesia and the islands of the Pacific. Plantain is also a common name for plants of the genus Plantago (q.v.) of the order Scrophulariales.

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Universalium. 2010.