Thursday, February 3, 2011

The "Barney" of vegetables: Eggplant! *stage 2*

Inspired by uncle Joe & aunt Ashley & "Good Eats."
Aubergines, eggplants, whatever you want to call them, they’re still super-yummy, super-versatile, super-beautiful veggies.  Their deep purple color is a tad bit misleading because they are a little bland, but that makes them perfect for babies!  Eggplants are packed with fiber which we all know is essential in maintaining healthy bowel function.  Other nutritional perks include vitamin A, Folate, & lots of calcium for strong, healthy baby bones :)  Eggplant is considered a stage 2 (6-8 months) vegetable because it can be bitter & isn't as easy to make into a smooth, luscious puree as other veggies.

So does Folate sound familiar?  I’m willing-to-bet you heard a lot about it during your pregnancy, but maybe by its other name: Folic Acid.  Folic acid, or vitamin B9 (How many names does this thing have??) is important during our child-bearing years & especially during pregnancy because folate levels drop dramatically in the body while pregnant.  During the first 4 weeks of pregnancy folic acid is needed for the embryo to develop its brain, spinal cord, and skull.  Serious birth defects, such as a neural tube defect, are significantly reduced in women who took folic acid before and/or during pregnancy, so it’s important to take it if you’re planning to become pregnant! 

"Eat me!"
But what does this mean for your baby now that he’s here?  Folate is used to produce & maintain new cell development which is especially important in a growing child.  Adults & children need folate to make normal red blood cells & prevent anemia.  If your child has issues with anemia, talk to her pediatrician about the introduction of folate & iron-rich fruits/vegetables into her diet.

Since eggplants are lacking a little in taste, they take on surrounding flavors very well. This makes eggplants ideal for mixing with other fruits or vegetables.  However, it’s not recommended you feed baby mixed meals until you've determined he/she does not have allergies to the foods you’re mixing together.Try it plain first & if your child doesn't care for the taste, try adding in a little bit of fruit to please her palette.

How to pick out a good eggplant?
When choosing an eggplant, try to steer clear from the larger ones because they are more mature so their "meat" will be less tender & therefore harder to make into baby food.  The larger they are, the more bitter the flesh will be.  Choose one that feels heavy for its size.  Smaller varieties such as the Chinese/Japanese eggplants are sweeter than their English cousins. White eggplants are even sweeter & produce a creamier product.  Make sure the skin is firm & shiny.  If it feels hollow or sounds hollow, chances are you've got an eggplant that has sat around too long.  Their tough skins should be removed for children this age.

Basic Eggplant Puree
1 Eggplant

Wash and peel eggplant. Deseed as needed. Cut into 1 inch pieces and steam until tender & mushy -OR- slice eggplant in quarters and bake in a 375 degree oven for approx. 30 minutes until tender. Place into food processor & add water to reach desired consistency.

Happy eating!
-Elias's mommy

Sources: "Folic Acid"; "Types of Eggplants"

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