Hokkaido and Squash: Which Pumpkins’ Skins Are Edible?

pumpkin
Photo: © StefanieB. - Fotolia.com

Pumpkins and squash are not only delicious, but also incredibly nutritious. They are typically locally produced and can be put to use in so many ways. Their preparation can seem time-consuming, though, especially the removal of their rinds. There are, however, quite a few varieties with edible skins. Read on to find out which ones can save you time and effort in the kitchen!

Pumpkins are a typical fall food. The scope of pumpkin-flavored everything these days ranges from coffee to cookies. Most pumpkin varieties are harvested in the late summer and early fall. However, since pumpkins can easily be stored for a long time, you might find locally produced pumpkins until early spring at your local market.

Although there are hundred different types of pumpkins and squash, the two most popular for cooking are the hokkaido pumpkin (also known as the red kuri squash) and the butternut squash. Occasionally you might find bigger muscat squash as well. These three varieties offer a huge variety of cooking options by themselves. However, you might find some exciting other edible varieties at your local farmer’s market or organic grocery store.

Pumpkins: What to Look for and How Best to Store Them

  • Season runs from end of August until late April.  Locally produced and organic.
  • Look for a rind that is in good condition. If the skin already shows issues, then the pumpkin will spoil quickly.
  • To determine if a pumpkin is ripe, you should knock on it; if it sounds hollow, then it is indeed ripe (especially with hokkaido, butternut, and muscat varieties).
  • If kept in a cool, dark, and dry area, most pumpkins will keep for months.
  • Once cut, pumpkins will last about one week if kept refrigerated.
  • Pumpkin slices can also be frozen for later usage: simply wash, cut, and dry the pumpkin slices and pack them in freezer bags. This is especially useful when making pumpkin soup and pumpkin mash.

Do You Always Have to Remove the Rind? Nope!

The skin of nearly all pumpkins and squash is edible; however, some varieties’ skins are simply too tough and take too long when cooking, resulting in the flesh being ready well before the skin. Therefore, it is recommended to remove the rind of certain varieties prior to cooking. Since this requires quite a bit of effort, Utopia recommends the following pumpking and squash varieties, as their skin is not too tough and cooks as quickly as the flesh.

Hokkaido Pumpkins

Hokkaido pumpkins, also known as red kuri squash, are some of the easiest pumpkins to prepare and store; due to this, their flavor, and their small size, they are growing in popularity. They are round, meal-sized, and bright orange in color. The skin of a hokkaido pumpkin is perfectly edible and does not need to be removed regardless of how you want to prepare it.

Whether you roast the hokkaido in the oven, make it into soup, or pan fry it: the skin can be left on. Indeed, many chefs have found that doing so results in a more intense flavor and therefore even prefer to leave the skin on.

Hokkaido pumpkins can be used for everything from soup to roast vegetables, mashed (similar to mashed sweet potatoes), pan-fried and added to salads, or even for desserts like pumpkin cakes and muffins.

An example of simple and delicious recipe is here from Rachel Ray.

Butternut Squash

The butternut squash is popular and ubiquitous. It has a pale pinkish-yellow skin and is pear shaped. Its insides are a lighter orange and it has a slightly buttery taste, hence the name.

The butternut squash’s rind is very thin but rather tough.  The skin can be easily removed with a normal veggie peeler, but for most recipes it is really not necessary to do so. It depends on how long the skin will be cooked, as it does take a bit longer to soften.

If you plan to roast the butternut squash, then it is probably better to remove the skin as it takes too long to soften. However, if you plan to use it to make a soup or to mash it, then the skin does not need to be removed. If you do remove the skin, it can be used to make a wonderful pan-fried vegetable dish (simply fry it with some onions and carrots).

Here is very simple and easy way to prepare butternut squash without peeling it first: Thekitchn.com.

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