What are they?

Platano CuadraoIf you’re familiar with Plantains, let me introduce you to the “Banano Cuadrado”, as it’s commonly known in Costa Rica. This tasty friend is a squarish shaped banana that’s also known as the “Guineo Cuadrado”. (cuadrado means “square” in English)

Like traditional bananas, cuadrados are also in the Musaceae family.  It was thought to have developed in the nature by hybridization of two wild species of Muscaceae, Musa acuminata Colla (AA) and M. balbsiana Colla (BB).    Cuadrados are different from traditional sweet bananas; being stockier, more drought tolerant and more usable when unripe.  They also contain more vitamin A, B, C, Potassium, and more calories per grams than regular sweet bananas.

Why Plant Them?

Ripe Cuadrado Plantain

Tasty Ripe Cuadrados

Calories and nutrients should be a garden goal of anyone looking to prepare for the worst. The Banano Cuadrado is a goldmine of both.  I like to look at what I’ve got growing and ask myself, “Would my family be fine if we didn’t go the supermarket for the next 30 days?”.  Yes……With a 30-40 plants growing and producing, I believe that the Cuadrado alone, could insure that we would survive.  (we’d be darn sick of eating them though! lol)

In my opinion, the cuadrado variety is one of the heartiest breeds of banana.  They’re drought and wind tolerant.  I can personally attest that they can be neglected and beat up by rough weather and stayed strong.  We have 3 different banana breeds growing and these are by far the toughest and most productive. We use cuadrados almost daily in the kitchen.  When the fruits are green, they can be used like potatoes or plantains in many recipes.  They also make for amazing soups, pancakes and purees.  Cuadrados can also be eaten like traditional bananas when ripe. (my kids love them!)  This give them an advantage over most plantains/platanos, which are  often too starchy or astringent to eat raw.

One thing that many people don’t know is that the large red flower that grows on the bottom of the banana bunch is edible as well.  Many countries in eastern Asia eat the blossoms in stirfrys and salads.  I’ll place a couple of links to some tasty recipes at the bottom of the page.

As with all plants in the Banana family, the leaves are incredibly useful.  You can use them to cook and store food in.  (Tamales!)  They make wonderful green plates and dinner mats.  Overripe fruits can be used to make vinegar.  They also make good mulch.  Both the leaves and stalks can be cut up and spread to increase potassium and nitrogen in the soil.  I probably should make a special entry in the Utility Plants section dedicated to the amazing banana plant.

How to Grow Them

The cuadrado is a perennial herbaceous plant that develops from the underground rhizome. They have no seeds, but babies plants will appear around the bottom of the plant.  The mother plant will produce fruit only once.

Planting Plantains

Small Baby ready to be removed and transplanted

The easiest way to get started is to get a shovel and take the babies and replant them.  You’ll need to actually cut them off of the mother plant underground.  If you’ve ever planted ginger, it’s a similar task.  It’s important to try to get as much of the ‘little guy’ as possible. Then, plant them in some broken up soil with some mulch. Wait 6-12 months, they’ll produce fruit and a bunch of little baby plants.

Tip: When the main plant produces a bunch of fruit, pick it, then cut down the entire stalk.  You can chop it up and use it to re-fertilize.  The small one will then grow up and the cycle will begin again.

 Sources and Links

Plantain Nutrition

The Cuadrado – Tamarindo.com

How to Cook With Platanos

Recipe – Fried Platanos

Recipe – Vietnamese Banana Blossom Salad

Recipe – Banana Flower, Poached Chicken and Mint Salad