plantain (fruit) the name given to varieties of the banana which are only suitable for cooking. They are not botanically distinct, but for the consumer they are entirely different from eating bananas. They are most important as staple foods in E. and C. Africa, and to a lesser extent in SE Asia and the islands, S. India, and the W. Indies. Most varieties are longer and thicker than typical eating bananas, often rather angular in cross-section. There are pink, green, red, blackish-brown, and black-spotted yellow varieties.