Making homemade baby food with fresh spring market veggies is easy and nutritious.
I felt like I had lucked out that my little girl turned six-months-old and started eating solids in the heart of winter. The veggies and fruits that come into season during the darker, cooler days of January and February are just right for what “babies first foods” tend to be.
For one, babies love all things orange. Carrots, sweet potatoes and winter squash are ideal vitamin-rich and calorie packed first foods. In fact, my baby loved orange foods so much that I’m afraid to admit she actually turned orange for a few days. Thankfully with a little mix in her menu she regained her normal pigmentation. And with the change in the season, spring inching forward and then dashing into bloom, I’ve realized what fun and variation there is to be had at each time of year.
When I started on this homemade baby food adventure, two things really surprised me.
First, creating delicious purees from fresh whole foods is really EASY! Basically all you have to do is take a whole fruit or veggie, steam it and mash it up. In just an hour or two during a weekend, you can make big batches and freeze them to last you several weeks.
Second, I could not believe how good plain-old steamed and mashed up veggies taste. These little meals burst with flavor. I found myself stealing bites out of my daughter’s bowl here and there thinking gosh, this all tastes amazing without any salt or sugar. It made me think twice about how I prepare my own food. But it also made me feel pretty good about my efforts to eat in season.
Foods harvested at their seasonal peak just taste better. More importantly, you’re going to get the greatest amount of nutrients for your baby when you cook with these ripe fresh fruits and veggies.
Aside from the above reasons, there are other great benefits to homemade baby food. For one, you know exactly what’s going into it, no additives, preservatives, sodium or sugars. You can experiment with textures and make the foods lumpier when the baby is ready so she can learn to chew foods. You can be creative and create mixtures with herbs and varieties of produce that you wouldn’t find in a jar. This isn’t to say that you’re never going to use jar food at all, I do all the time when we’re traveling, or just because I’m out of home made food.
Now it’s spring and peas and asparagus are just coming into season, both an excellent source of folate which helps support growth and build new cells. Dark leafy greens and vegetables like kale and brocolli will be around for a while and mixed with some pear puree, this concoction is a great source of vitamin C and antioxidants. And fish like halibut and wild salmon are excellent sources of lean protein and the omega fatty acids DHA and EPA which can enhance baby’s brain development and vision. I mix fish with sweet potato for a mild flavor and creamy texture.
And then there is the prune conundrum. I find that the one jar food I often buy, for the “regular” reasons, is prunes. I wanted to figure out a way to make my own baby prunes but I couldn’t find prunes at the farmers market. So I figured another dried fruit might be close enough? Pluots! I found dried pluots at the Hidden Star Orchards stand, they have an excellent selection of dried fruit and are at almost all of the Marin County Farmers Markets. I mixed dried pluots and cherries and it turned out to do the trick. The taste is quite tart, but my baby didn’t seem to mind.
Please check out these spring market recipes below and as well as some tips for where to find more baby food recipes and methods.
Homemade baby food web sites:
Two of my favorite home made baby food books:
Pea, Asparagus and Barley Puree
- 1 cup shelled peas (frozen works too)
- 1 cup blanched chopped asparagus
- 1 cup cooked barley
Steam peas for about 4 minutes or until tender. Blanch asparagus spears in boiling water for about 2 minutes so they are tender but still firm. Chop asparagus into small pieces. Blend barley, steamed peas and asparagus using some of the cooking liquid used to steam the peas to make a creamy healthy green blend.
Sweet Potato and White Fish Puree
- 4 oz thin white fish (I used sole in this recipe. That was before I read THIS article on sustainable harvesting practices and sole is not a fish that is generally harvested sustainably. So you can use alaskan halibut or other white fish. If the filet is too thick just cut in half so it cooks and flakes easily)
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 sweet potatoes (I like pale sweet potatoes for this recipe because they have a nice creamy texture)
Peel sweet potatoes and chop into 1/2 inch pieces. Place sweet potato in a steamer basket with about 2 inches of water beneath the steamer basket. Steam for about 8 minutes on medium-high heat or until the potato is very tender. In a small saucepan place fish filets and cover with milk. Cook on medium-high heat for only about 3 minutes or until fish is cooked through and flakes easily.
Drain excess milk and puree sweet potato and fish. BE CAREFUL of bones! I learned the hard way and ended up picking bones out of my daughter’s bowl as I fed her.
Dried Pluot and Cherry Puree
- 1 1/2 cup dried Pluots
- 1/2 cup dried cherries
Steam fruit for about 4 minutes. Use the cooking liquid and additional warm water and add while blending the fruit. I was surprised at how much water it took to create a consistent puree. I shouldn’t have been because the fruit is ‘dried’ after all, but it took about 3 cups of water to add to the batch. Makes about 4 cups.
Kale, Broccoli and Pear Puree
- 1 cup chopped Kale
- 1 cup chopped Broccoli
- 1 pear pealed and chopped
Steam all of the above in a baby cook or steamer for about 5-6 minutes or until tender. Puree using some of the cooking liquid. Makes about 2 cups of delicious sweet protein and fiber rich puree.