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Extremely weird butternut squash reaction

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Ok this was so weird. I know it's happened to me before, so it's not just a one-time thing but I just can't figure out why. I was peeling a raw butternut squash with a vegetable peeler and then cut it into chunks to roast. The specific logistics are pertinent here: after peeling, I held the squash in my left hand and cut it into chunks holding the knife in my right hand. After finishing, I noticed that the palm of my left hand was, well, sort of shrivelled and dried up. I washed my hands well thinking that I just had some dried squash juice on it. But no - it just got worse. Eventually, the skin on the palm and fingers of my left hand became so stiff that I could barely open my hand all the way. Then...the skin began to crack and flake off. It was just like a chemical peel! My right hand, which did not contact the squash at all, was perfectly normal. No amount of hand cream helped. This effect lasted about 5 hours. My hand is now fine. Any explanation????

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  1. the starches that are released are putting a "coating" on your hand. the same thing happens to me. it dries and it seems like it will never wash off no matter what. totally know what you're talking about. it is possible you're having an allergic reaction, but highly doubt it because you wouldn't be able to eat it and your right hand would be effected somewhat. in order to avoid this, put the squash in the oven whole at 400 degrees for about 30-45 minutes until fork tender. cool and then the peeling just, literally peels away from the flesh. much easier and no "raw" peeling required. i do this in my cooking classes for a butternut squash bisque all the time. i never cook it any other way anymore. if you want chunks or a dice, just cook it less or until it's like an almost done potato.

    9 Replies
    1. re: ChefShell

      Your explanation sounds right, I just have a slight quibble: It is possible to have a skin allergy and still be able to ingest the substance. My daughter's skin is allergic to lobster "juice". If the liquid from steaming the lobster drips onto her skin she breaks out in a burn-like rash which is extremely painful. She, however, eats lobster regularly. Just makes sure it's grilled and she uses a fork! Strange but true.

      1. re: mirage

        Absolutely true, I once had terrible rashes from eating whole mangos, when the juice got on my hands and on my face. But I eat mango all the time with out any tummy upset...
        lucky I am not a monkey... or I would have to be a monkey with a knife and fork.

        1. re: ciaolette

          There's something in the mango skin that affects some people.

          1. re: lgss

            its the sap, many people are allergic. the juice on skin can also cause a rash, but usually its the sap.

        2. re: mirage

          oh absolutely, you can be allergic to things dermatologically and still be able to ingest them. didn't mean that it was absolute. our daughter can't touch eggplant with her hands but can eat it with a fork and i'm the same with strawberries. sorry for the confusion.

          1. re: Chefshell

            Yup! This isn't a food allergy, but I get really itchy when I touch grass with my bare skin. I don't react to it in the air, though.

          2. re: mirage

            wow! i thought it was just me!!...when i worked as a prep cook in a pro-lobster place, i had to wear latex gloves taped to my chef coat to avoid the wrath of lobster juice : 1 drop would leave an itchy, inflamed red mark on my skin for the entirety of the day

          3. re: ChefShell

            It was probably not an allergic reaction simply because of the fact that there was no pain or sensitivity reaction to the "cracking of the skin" that would be caused by increased blood flow to the afflicted area. I would probably agree with the starh coating idea.

            1. re: ChefShell

              There's probably enzymes in butternut squash, like there are in mangos, papaya, pineapple etc, which can tenderize meat and break down proteins. It's very common for those enzymes to be added to facials.

            2. h
              Heidi Claire

              Deep orange colored squashes and pumpkin contain many enzymes that react on the skin in much the same manner as a glycolic acid chemical peel. In fact, there are many, many pumpkin facial peels presently on the market. It seems that you may be hyper-sensitive, or even allergic to the concentrated enzymes to realize such a strong contact reaction.

              1. Yeah, the same thing happens to me everytime I work w/ a butternut. The first time I had a mini-freak out b/c my whole hand seemed to stiffen and get numb. Now, I just immediately scrub my hands w/ dishwashing soap and a dobie. It still feels a little strange for about 30 min. to an hour, but then returns to normal. Your reaction of 5 hrs. seems like a long time, so maybe you should consider wearing food gloves when handling it in the future.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Carb Lover

                  Glad it's not just me. I didn't think it could possibly be. And since I don't have any other allergies, I very much doubt it's an allergy. I will definitely use gloves next time I work with a raw butternut squash.

                  However, I am thinking of marketing it as a natural facial peel....

                  Oh just kidding. However....

                  1. re: Nyleve

                    Me too! Me too! Is it okay to eat the squash afterward? Oh dear, this is weird. Is it some kind of toxin? Or am I being paranoid?

                2. I too just had this exact same react to peeling butternut although I have had comtact with this type of sqash before with no reaction.
                  Do you think if you wash your hands immediately it can lessen the reaction?
                  Thanks to everyone for writing in - you saved me from freaking out about my blistery peeling hand!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: beth

                    I too had this reaction (thank dog I could run to the internet to see what was up!). In any event, I found that spraying my hand with Simple Green (an organic and very powerful cleaner) immediately stopped the numbness and apparent allergic reaction. I am somewhat allergic to squash and have all sorts of contact dermititis issues, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised by this.

                  2. How odd. I wonder why it happens to some people but not others.

                    I'd only offer what may be an alternative solution: don't peel the squash. I've found that in most recipes, it's fine to leave it on (wash first, of course). I actually like the texture of it, too.