Hello, Gorgeous! (Celebrating the Potimarron or Hokkaido Squash)

On Saturday morning, from the attractive stall of my favorite produce merchant at the Marché des Batignolles, a potimarron is beaming up at me.

Plump orange cheeks, smooth skin with faint white lines — who could resist? I pick it up to get a better feel of its perfect shape and weight, cup it in my gloved hands, and adopt it instantly.

The stall-keeper, a pretty young woman with a crinkled felt hat, is always happy to share advice. “Potimarron is great puréed with carrots,” she offers.

I reluctantly hand her my potimarron (she has to weigh it, I know) and ask her to throw in a few carrots as well. She gets them from a crate in the back. “You don’t mind the dirt, do you? These were picked this morning and we haven’t scrubbed them yet.” Me? Oh no. I don’t mind the dirt at all.

Potimarron, a.k.a. Hokkaido squash, is a winter squash with a delicate chestnut flavor. Its French name is in fact a portmanteau of potiron (pumpkin) and marron (chestnut), and the skin of young specimens is soft enough that you don’t have to peel it. You feelin’ the love yet?

Oh, and get this: the longer a potimarron is stored, the more its vitamin and sugar content develops. Does this mean I can keep it on my bedside table for a little while, until it’s nice and ripe and chock-full of nutrients? It glows so bright I’m sure I can use it as a reading lamp. But just how long will I resist the temptation to make potimarron and carrot purée? Or potimarron gnocchi? Or potimarron jam?

  • How very aptly titled on this one! That potimarron really is GORGEOUS!! Of all the squashes I’ve seen, this one wins the beauty competition.

  • Jo

    Fantabulous. I’m currently practising my soup dishes, and that one looks gloriously tempting. I’ll look around for it and give it a shot too. =)

  • David

    My my what a little beauty! Have never heard of this squash. Will look out for it. It screams soup to me too! especially with a few carrots tossed in.

  • I’m not sure I’ve seen one of those in the markets, but will look for one now. I love all kinds of squash but will look for a simpler recipe than gnocchi.

  • Ann/brighidsdaughter

    Gorgeous, indeed! The sweet winter squash here are “post-impressionist funky”, both in shape and color. If this beauty were mine, I’d admire it for awhile, then make soup with it and the carrots, and garnish with caramelized shallots & butter-frizzled chiffonade of sage leaves. I wish these were available in Dallas.

  • Hi Clotilde,

    I am not sure if this is the same as Japanese kuri (chestnut) kabocha (pumpkin) typically from Hokkaido region, as their skin is usually dark green… but if these actually are the same stuff, yours should be delicious, too. I like them just cut into large pieces (seeded but not peeled), lightly coated in a small amount of oil over high heat, and cooked in some water with a tiny bit of sugar and a bit of soy sauce. They are good grilled, too.

  • Your papounet

    Only you, Clotilde, could write a love story involving a vegetable. “Girl meets veggie”, Hollywood could make something out of this new theme… It’s so sad to know it will end tragically, though…

  • Yes, they are right, it’s great in (or as) a soup. See my recipe on http://www.edwinek.com/index.php?art=3207. Enjoy!

  • E.

    Your dad is too funny, Clotilde.

  • Reen

    Hi, this comment is not relevant to the post.. but am thinking it’s the best way to get a feedback. ;)

    I tried making the Tarte Tatin With Salted Butter Caramel. It turned out lovely, except the caramel was VERY dilluted. What did I do wrong?

  • Joan

    what a delight ~ I’ve never come across a potimarron…this one however looks to be exquisitely suspended in midair ~ where are the wings?..and Clotilde, if you think the potimarron is bright..as in providing light bright ~ ah, I know something far far brighter ~ my face! I swam in the Pacific Ocean and forgot blockout..red face is a red face is a red face is a red face ~ out of the blue ~ thanks soooooooooooo much for the daily photo ~ instant treat for this gal in Oz

  • oh! I go to Batignolles too! :D

  • aaaaaaaaa trop cute!! i’m totally in potimarron love, and it’s not even filled with chocolate… or is it? :-p

  • you inspired me ma chere! i went to my market today at place monge and purchased a darling potimarron. now what to do with it… purée, soufflé, flambée?

  • After spending hours searching both the net & my local market, I have discovered that the potimarron is the same as the red kuri as mentioned above. The one that I picked up is not as pretty as your’s but I am hoping for the perfect flavor. Thank you for setting me off on this search.

  • cynthiaLW

    Have you heard of a squash called Jaspee de Vendee? It is listed in my Thompson & Morgan seed catalog and the description amazes me. It says that it is the sweetest winter squash available and that the flesh is so sweet that it can be eaten raw like a melon. I’ve never heard of it here in the PNW.

  • Hi, Clotilde

    your link for potimarron jam is dead, I also can’t find it the recipe index… help!

  • Aah! I have searched for this squash since I was a child and a friend grew them in his garden.

    Never mind pureed with carrots, I used to love a piece straight from the Aga with a curl of fresh butter melting over it. Delicious!

    I have often asked squash growers if they had come across this type and found only blank looks. Seems I was asking for the wrong squash; I thought it was called Petit Marron, because they are quite small relative to the hugeness of some pumkins and yes, that dense orange flesh does taste of chestnuts.

    A little tear came into my eye when I read this post and a whoosh of childhood memories.

    Thanks Clothilde, I’m going to bag me a squash for my bedside table.

    x x x

  • Andrea

    On my honeymoon in Beynac-et-Cazenac (last fall (2009), no tourists, few restaurants open), we stumbled on a place whose special soup that evening was potimarron. It was utterly – Utterly – divine.

    I knew marron was chestnut, and the soup certainly tasted chestnutty, and I knew potiron was pumpkin or squash (despite that the soup didn’t have a squash-y taste really), but I had no idea what a potimarron looked like or could be. (needless to say, our server had no idea how to describe the vegetable from which the soup was made, except to say “it’s like a pumpkin, but not”)

    I love this entry, because it explains everything. And this year, I happened to stumble on a packet of seeds for potimarron! I can’t wait to see what happens with them this summer – I hope I can recapture that beautiful soup I had in the fall.

  • Naomi and Andrea – So glad this post rekindled some of these lovely memories!

  • Ellen

    Salut! Just wanted to let you know the “potimarron jam” link is no longer working. Do you remember the gist of it?

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