Going Bananas!

Source: Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers

After baby cereal, bananas are often the first solid food given to infants. They are easily digested, very nutritious, and taste great. Dubbed "Nature’s wonder fruit," bananas are the only fruit to contain all the major vitamins: A, B1, B2, B6, and C. Bananas are also high in fiber, potassium, and magnesium.

Sometimes referred to as the anti-stress, good-mood vitamin, B6 is involved in the transmission of impulses in nerves and muscles and is important in making red blood cells.

Potassium is essential to mental function, brain power, and nerve impulses. In fact, according to certain biochemists, new brain cells cannot be made without potassium. Bananas, one of nature’s richest sources of potassium, are also one of the easiest ways to give your body this important mineral that powers your brain and your muscles.

Age to introduce: about 6 months (puréed or mashed).

At the Market: There are more banana choices than the standard yellow variety that your mom used to buy. Most stores offer several different varieties. Here is a description of some common ones:

Apple bananas are smaller, about 3–4 inches, and they ripen faster. They are also yellow.

Baby bananas are yellow, as well, and measure 1–3 inches. It is the sweetest of the banana family.

Baking bananas are 12–15 inches long and are green, yellow, or reddish in color. They cannot be eaten raw. They fulfill the role of the potato in the tropical countries.

Storage and Ripening: Bananas are best stored on the countertop at room temperature. To speed up ripening, place them in the sun. Bananas will turn black if placed in the refrigerator.

Here are a few easy ideas for adding banana to your meals:

  • Add ripe, mashed bananas to pancake and muffin recipes.
  • Sliced bananas are a great breakfast fruit; add them to cereal or oatmeal.
  • For an ultrasmooth smoothie, toss a banana in your blender with milk, yogurt, juice, and other fruit.
  • Add bananas to a tossed salad using the dressing recipe below.

Banana-Friendly Salad Dressing
Whisk together:
1 finely diced jalapeño pepper
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 cup coconut milk

Toddler Treat: Frozen Banana Pops
These frozen banana pops—with or without the chocolate—are a simple summer treat.

Wooden sticks
Chocolate (1 ounce per banana)—optional

One banana makes two pops. Peel bananas and slice in half crosswise. Insert the wooden stick in the end of each piece. Place in freezer for two hours. They are ready to eat (unless you want to dip them in chocolate).

To Dip in Chocolate: Melt chocolate according the package directions. You may need to add a bit of cooking oil (1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon, depending on the amount and type of chocolate) to the chocolate to develop a good dipping consistency. You can also purchase chocolate that is specially created for melting and dipping. It is often located in the baking or produce sections of a grocery store. Once the chocolate is ready, remove the frozen bananas from the freezer and dip or spoon chocolate over them. Put them back in the freezer to set. They’ll be ready in minutes.

Storage: Wrap individually in plastic. Freeze for up to 2 months.

 Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are
sisters, the mothers of five children and founders of Fresh Baby. Visit
them at
www.freshbaby.com and subscribe to their Fresh Ideas
newsletter. Fresh Baby Baby Food Kits and other products are available
at many fine specialty stores and national chains including Target,
Wild Oats, and Whole Foods Markets.