If recipes requiring peeled and chopped winter squash wound up being eh or even just okay, I’d swear off peeling squash forever. But the sad fact is, the payoff is usually tremendous. So I soldier on.
Sure, all that slicing and peeling is tedious, but that’s not what bothers me most. What gets me is what the little buggers do to my hands.
At first I thought I was the only one who had this problem. Every time I’d get the brilliant idea to peel and chop a butternut squash, my hands would end up looking chapped and raw, with a strange film covering the surface of my skin. No matter how many times I’d wash my hands and slather them with lotion, that strange sensation wouldn’t go away. I felt like Lady Macbeth.
But then I heard more family and friends making the same complaint. “I just spent all afternoon chopping up squash,” my mother once said to me over the phone, “and now my hands look like I stuck them in acid. I hate what that vegetable does to my skin!”
So it isn’t just me. And after a little Googling, I came across a scientific paper entitled “Butternut Squash (Curcurbita moschata) dermatitis,” written by two dermatologists. Apparently, a compound in butternut squash can cause contact dermatitis, a localized rash or irritation of the skin. This isn’t necessarily the case for everyone, but it happens to enough people that now I don’t feel like I’m crazy.
You can imagine my reaction, then, when I saw a phenomenal recipe for saffron risotto with roasted butternut squash, for which the first instructions read, “Peel squash, remove the seeds and chop into 3/4″ cubes.” Oh no, not that again. But the recipe looked so good and I couldn’t get it out of my head. There had to be another way.
That’s when it came to me: rubber gloves. A perfect solution? As it turns out, nearly, and it was certainly better than raw hands or — horrors — no risotto at all. I threw on a pair of tight-fitting rubber gloves and peeled away — a task that does not become any less tedious with gloves, but at least I didn’t need to sacrifice my skin in the process.
So problem solved. I peeled the squash, the squash didn’t peel me, and I made a risotto that was most definitely worth the effort.
Edited to add: If you’ve had a bad skin reaction after peeling and chopping squash, wash your hands with cool water and soap, then rub some cortisone cream all over your hands. This should help heal the contact dermatitis, though the rash and strange sensation will not disappear immediately.