The trouble with plantains is that the more beat up they look, the sweeter they taste.

“Our Central American employees always tell us that the more bruised and blackened it is, the better,” said Craig Stephen, vice president North American sales at Chiquita Brands Inc., Cincinnati.

“Our non-Hispanic consumers don’t normally see it that way,” Stephen said, “but now that we have a consistent quality and volume throughout the year, we can spend the next 12 months creating additional awareness, educating customers about how you buy them, prepare them, what they can be used for and what you can substitute a plantain for in your cooking.”

Scott DiMartini, a regional sales manager for Florida-based Turbana Corp., also believes the imposing bananas are about to make the transition to a much broader group of consumers.

“A lot of people don’t know it’s a very versatile food,” DiMartini said. “There are many ways to prepare and enjoy it depending on the colour and stage of ripeness.”

To take the guesswork out of plantains, Turbana has created stickers telling the buyer how to prepare them along with a recipe idea. There’s one sticker for starchy green plantains and one for the ripe fruit.

“Consumers are more apt to take risks and buy a product they’ve never purchased before if they know exactly what to do with it when they get home,” DiMartini said.

He said Turbana is already expanding its plantain program into stubby Hawaiian plantains, a newer variety that comes in a cluster and is easier to peel.

Videos featuring plantain recipes appear on Chiquita’s website, chiquitabananas.com. Stephen said Chiquita is offering retailers point-of-sale material, recipes and shelf talkers.

Dole’s website features eight plantain recipes, ranging from baked sweet plantains to a curried plantain and potato soup.