Squash Part 2: Death Squash

The carotenoid face of a killer.

So.  Needless to say, my aforementioned “squash roasting pants” have been retired for a little while.  Somewhere in the whole “roast squash and eat it process” something went horribly wrong.  The outside of the squash washed and dried.  The squash cut up and roasted with sesame oil, salt, and pepper. The seeds toasted. The squash eaten.

And then things were not so good.

There was much, much unexpected barfing from consuming said squash.  And the worst part was, it was so unexpected. One of the things that I really like about being a vegan, is the fact that your chances of getting sick from your food being under-cooked are significantly less – maybe you eat something that’s a little bit “toothsome” but ultimately, you’re no worse for wear.  Not feeling 100% to begin with, the bizarre onset of this stomach death plague was enough to pretty much ruin the weekend.

So the rest of the squash got thrown out.  And the toasted seeds. And the place I got the squash is on my shit list for a while. Oh well.

Cucubita-5-ene with standard carbon numbering.
From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cucurbitacin

Now in the cold light of post barf rationality, one turns to the internet looking for answers.  Squash that were self-seeded produce additional toxic glycosides to protect themselves from herbivores – and some small percentage of those mutate to over-produce the glycosides.  Now Cucurbitacins are generally considered to be some of the bitterest compounds that humans encounter – how’s that for evolution. As orange kabocha squash are considered some of the sweetest squash of the sweet, with apparently a strong chestnut flavor, maybe the bitterness was somehow masked.  Either way, that was some seriously bad juju.

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5 comments on “Squash Part 2: Death Squash
  1. angryscholar says:

    Ugh, man, what a drag. Where’d you get the kabocha? I’ve never heard of it producing toxins.

    When you say “self-seeded,” do you mean that the plant was allowed to grow and flower and drop seeds, and the squash produced from these produce more of the compound? If that’s the case, it must be a very labor-intensive crop to produce safely. Or maybe I have no idea what I’m talking about.

    • vigorousbog says:

      It’s pretty unusual for squash to produce toxins in any appreciable quantity. I’m guessing it was just food poisoning from the local hippie market. Self-seeded basically means that there weren’t any bees hopping from plant to plant – so if it were a solo vine in a pot pollinating itself – and even then the massive toxin quantities would have to be a mutant squash to begin with. It’s interesting because these compounds are actually being researched for potential medical applications.

      One interesting side effect was I got some blog comment spam, by someone who said “Looks tasty” with regards to my squash photo, without reading the pesky words trying to drum up blog traffic… then again “DEATH SQUASH” might have been interpreted ambiguously.

      • angryscholar says:

        Hah. Interesting–self-pollinating produces toxic chemicals, maybe. There’s a moral message in there somewhere.

        But you think the likely culprit was aforementioned unwashed hippies? That’s less exciting.

        I remember hearing about some commercially available cleaner, which may or may not have been “all-natural”, for washing veggies. I think it was a spray. Can’t really recall any of the details about it, and needless to say I never tried it. But I wonder if something like that (one not composed of, like, ammonia) might help with hippie produce, at least in terms of fending off feces-related illnesses.

        Speaking of feces, you should write something about probiotics, man. I got into an argument awhile back about the probioticness of yogurt. I was (and am) under the impression that “probiotic” is just a newish nice way of referring to beneficial bacteria, and that all yogurt has them (albeit in different delicious flavors, such as l. acidophilus or bifidus). My co-combatant maintained that only yogurts specifically using the term “probiotic” (i.e., Activia) could deliver appreciable digestive benefits.

        I have been grading tests all night and I hope that all made some kind of sense.

      • vigorousbog says:

        Activia’s actually been the victim of several lawsuits in both the US and Canada for overstating its health claims. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Activia#United_States)

        Basically the idea of “Probiotics” is a rather large field and even harder to prove definitive health benefits. Nutrition studies would have to follow thousands of people divided into two groups and following their diet over the course of years, and there are a lot more variables and it’s honestly difficult to prove anything definitively.

        That being said, the health benefits aren’t necessarily limited to l. acidophilous. There are a lot of studies saying Lactobascillus (in most yogurts – with live cultures) helps with traveler’s diarrhea, IBS, lowering serum cholesterol, increases Vitamin K, helps repopulate the gut after antibiotic use, lowers E. Coli outbreaks when included in cattle feed, etc. etc. etc. In general, any form of lactobascillus usually helps with that kind of stuff.

        But at the same time, all these a lot of bacteria strains (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Probiotic#Strains) have had research assessing their health effects.

        Personally I prefer fermentation style pickles (e.g. sauerkraut and kimchi) as well as fermented soy stuff like tempeh, tamari, and miso paste.

        But in general, it’s a bigger issue. Children born vaginally vs. caesarian, kids being exposed to more germs as a kid having fewer adult allergies as adults. In the most extreme case of “Probiotics” I would have to point you towards the so called “Fecal Transplant” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fecal_bacteriotherapy) which actually seeks to cause natural flora to help restore the bacterial ecosystem of the colon. Fun fact – yogurt was popularized early on in America by John Kellog at the Battle Creek Sanitarium for use both orally and in enemas. Yeah. That Kellog.

        Way too much information I know, but yeah. You can buy whatever kind of yogurt you want.

  2. vigorousbog says:

    Trying to work out a different formatting thing, that balances reading ease without an overwhelming number of lumens pouring into my eyes.

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