The season for collecting this member of the cucurbit family (Cucurbita ficifolia) coincides with Holy Week and Easter, and hundreds of roadside stands have them available.
It is a Semana Santa staple. Supermarkets have them now.
Costa Ricans use them in many ways, mostly sweet and based on brown sugar, white sugar, in conservas and the famous miel de chiverre or chiverre honey.
You can mix prepared chiverre with coconut and you can put in tamarindo seeds, but the basic preparation is the same.
Miel de chiverre
A lot of patience
A big chiverre
Dulce de caña in (2) tapas or 1 kilo of granular brown sugar
250 grams brown tamarindo seeds
if desired, coconut pieces or flakes
(Tapas of dulce de caña are the little circular blocks of brown sugar available at every market.)
Make a fire or use a kitchen burner to char as much as possible of the shell of the chiverre. When done, hit the shell with a hammer to expose the contents that looks like Chinese spaghetti or fine hairs. Chiverre, by the way sometimes is called spaghetti squash.
Now the contents must be dried. You can use the clothes drier to reduce the moisture. A clean pillowcase can be used to protect the chiverre. When the chiverre contents are drier, cook it in a big pot on low heat. In the pot put your preferred sugar, white or brown.
Cover the entire flesh of the chiverre with sugar, tamarindo seeds, cinnamon, cloves (called clavos de olor in Costa Rica) lemon or orange peel and, if desired, coconut. The chiverre will produce enough liquid for this process.
Cover the pot and let it cook slowly and reduce for 90 minutes. Don’t forget to stir often.
This delicacy is available in most of the country’s supermarkets if you are not handy with a hammer. Also available is chiverre en conserva (about 800 colons for a 500-gram bottle). That’s about $1.70 a pound.
This product is used like jelly in empanadas and other dishes where a touch of sweetness is desired.
Written by Saray Ramírez Vindas and originally published April 7, 2004.