They’re sweet, highly nutritious and great in both savoury recipes and desserts.
Yet few of us think of including prunes in meals for our babies!
In this article we’ll show you just how healthy prunes can be, and give you some great ideas for adding them to baby’s menu!
Prunes are actually dried plums.
They’re a well-known remedy for constipation – particularly among the elderly population – and it’s that association that has made them rather LESS popular with everyone else!
In the US, producers decided to try to change the public perception of prunes by marketing them as ‘dried plums’ instead. Even we have to agree that there’s just something more appealing in that description!
In the UK and other parts of the world, however, they’re still known as prunes, and that’s how we’ll refer to them in this article.
Although all prunes are dried plums, not all varieties of plums are dried to produce prunes.
The plums grown to make prunes are the ‘freestone’ variety (the type with the pit that’s loose and easy to remove).
The plums are sun-dried or dried using hydrators – with no fermentation involved – and the pits are removed before packaging.
Unlike many other dried fruits, prunes are usually dried without the use of sulfates.
The purpose of sulfates in the drying process is to prevent the fruit darkening. But since prunes are dark in colour anyway, sulfates aren’t needed.
This is good news if your baby is sensitive to sulfates – but always check the packaging when you buy prunes, just to be on the safe side.
When plums go through the drying process that creates prunes, the concentration of nutrients and anti-oxidants rises (although the vitamin C content is virtually destroyed).
The fact that they provide concentrated nutrition makes them ideal for baby food, where they are only consumed in small amounts. Even better news if you’re the parent of a fussy eater!
You can usually find prunes in the baking aisle of your local supermarket, along with other dried fruits like raisins and apricots. Occasionally you can find them canned.
For the very best prunes, you may need to take a trip to the deli and look for Pruneaux d’Agen.
Grown in southwestern France, these are dried very gently, producing a succulent texture (rather than a ‘dried’ one) and a delicious flavour.
California is the world’s leading producer of prunes and most of the ready-to-eat prunes found in supermarket aisles are Californian in origin.
Prunes are usually sold pitted, although you sometimes still find them sold with the pits intact.
Always check the packaging to make sure it is completely sealed, otherwise they will have lost much of the little moisture they have.
Most ready-to-eat varieties will last for months if kept in a cool, dark place in an airtight container.
You can extend this even further by keeping them in the fridge.
Wonderful as they are, there are a few things to bear in mind when serving prune – or prune juice – to your baby…
This is very simple to make!
Almost all prunes will need soaking before pureeing, to re-hydrate them. We like to use warm, unsweetened apple juice for this, but plain old warm water will do the job! You can either simmer them gently in the liquid, or just leave them sitting in it.
Once they’ve softened enough, just pop them in the blender and whiz, until you’ve reached the desired texture.
We find it hard to get prune puree completely smooth, even after rehydration.
The way we solve this is to add in some of the soaking liquid – it really helps achieve the desired consistency!
Canned prunes – if you can get them – are fully hydrated and ready for pureeing. But don’t make the mistake we did and empty them into the blender without checking the can. An awful cracking, splintering sound quickly alerted us to the fact that canned prunes are NOT always pitted! It’s also important to check the prunes are canned in juice, not syrup.
Another thing we notice is that prune puree never solidifies completely when frozen.
It always feels sticky. This may not bother you – but if you want it to freeze hard then, again, adding back some of the cooking liquid can help.
You can also use prunes as a healthy substitute for fat when baking. To do this, simply rehydrate ½ lb prunes with 6 tablespoons of warm water, then puree thoroughly.
This recipe makes 6 pancakes.
5 pitted prunes, chopped (if they are very dry, soak them first)
3/4 cup milk
1 cup all purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
I do hope your little one enjoys these prune baby food ideas. Please contact me if you have a recipe or idea you’d like to share!
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