Baby in a pumpkin patch

Pumpkins: Not just for jack-o’-lanterns anymore!

While pumpkins naturally attract more attention during Halloween season than any other time of year, this surprisingly nutritious fruit (yes, it really is a fruit!) can be a healthy addition to your baby’s diet. Packed with Vitamin A and beta-carotene, pumpkins are also a good source of potassium, protein, and iron. These beneficial nutrients are known to promote bone growth and muscle development while helping to combat diseases. Pumpkins are also low in fat but high in fiber, which helps the digestive process, and makes them perfect for almost any baby food recipe!

Nutritious ideas for your little pumpkin.

Most pediatricians suggest that your infant be at least six months old before beginning to safely eat pumpkins. You may want to introduce your baby to pumpkin in pureed form. Also, consider boiling, steaming, or baking pumpkins and mixing them into homemade cereals and yogurts, and even with meats, such as chicken or turkey. To help to ensure love at first bite, many moms swear by adding a small bit of butter and cinnamon to the pumpkin mix for a tasteful treat your little one won’t be able to resist. When buying pumpkins, you will find that smaller, immature varieties work best in your baby food dishes. Look for cooking pumpkins, sugar pumpkins, or pie pumpkins  for a flavorful addition to your baby’s diet.

Did you know?

Pumpkins are a member of the gourd (Cucurbitacae) family, which also includes squash, cucumbers, gherkins, and melons. Made up of 90% water, pumpkins are grown on every continent except Antarctica. Most historians agree that the jack-o’-lantern tradition was started by the Irish, who carved ghoulish faces on turnips and placed candles within them to celebrate this scary holiday. When Irish immigrants migrated to America during the Irish Potato Famine in the mid-1800s, they discovered that pumpkins were more plentiful than turnips, plus were larger and easier to carve.

Try this at home.

If you are interested in going beyond the can in your cooking, here are several ways to prepare your pumpkin.

Bake it. To do this, simply cut the pumpkin in half and remove the stem, seeds and stringy pulp. Place the two halves face down in a shallow baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for approximately an hour to an hour and a half (until tender) in a 375 degree oven. Once it has cooled, scoop and puree the flesh.

Steam it. Prepare the pumpkin just like you would for baking. You can then steam it on the stovetop. Just place a steaming basket in the bottom of a pot large enough for both halves. Add water to the pot and bring to a boil, making sure to add enough that it will not boil dry in 20 minutes. Add your pumpkin, cover and steam for 8 to 12 minutes. Pumpkin is also easily steamed in the microwave. Either method will take about the same amount of time.

Easy pumpkin recipes for the whole family: