Kabocha Squash
Whole and Cut Kabocha Squash [Japanese Pumpkin (Australia / New Zealand); Fak Thong (Thai); Danhobak (Korea); Cambodia Abóbora (Portugal); Kabocha, Bobora (Japan); Cucurbita maxima]

This excellent winter squash was taken from Cambodia to Japan by Portuguese sailors in 1541. "Kabocha" is a Japanese corruption of "Cambodia". They may range from 1-1/2 to 8 pounds, but average around 2-1/2 pounds. Farms in California started growing them for export to Japan, but the Japanese only wanted the largest ones, so the smaller were sold in Los Angeles. Soon they were grown by many farms (seeds come with every squash) and are now one of the most common in California.

Today, these squash are grown as far afield as South Africa, Tasmania and Chile. Most of the crop from California, Colorado, Tonga and New Zealand is exported to Japan. This I have to say; given the tonnage in markets here in California, if most of our crop goes to Japan, that's one huge pile of squash.

The larger of the photo specimens was 6-1/2 inches diameter, 4 inches high and weighed 3-1/4 pounds. The smaller was 5-1/4 inches diameter, 3-1/2 inches high and weighed 1-1/2 pounds.

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As processed (see "Growing") kabocha flesh is very sweet and intensely orange. It is even tasty eaten raw.

Growing:   These squash are easy to grow, but are rather dry and bland at harvest. Once removed from the vine, they are stored in a warm place (around 77°F) for 13 days while starches convert to sugars. they are then moved to a cool place (around 50°F) for another month, or as long as 2-1/2 months.

Buying:   Here in Southern California these are available in practically every produce market and supermarket. They should be a matt green color with light green spots and streaks (a few flecks of orange won't hurt). They should be hard and heavy for their size, and without bruises. The stems should be dry and shriveled, showing they have been aged. Here in Los Angeles produce markets usually charge about 2016 US $0.98 / pound, but the photo specimens were purchased from a large Asian market in San Gabriel for $0.69 / pound.

Storing:   They'll keep in a cool dry place for a couple of weeks. Once cut they should be refrigerated and used within a few days.

Prep: The best way to open this rather hard squash is to place it on the cutting board, position a razor sharp Chinese cleaver knife on it, and drive it through with a soft faced mallet (see Chinese Cleaver Knife & Mallet). The skin is thin and edible, so peeling is entirely optional.

Cooking: In Japan, this squash is often used for Nimono, simmered in a stock of dashi, soy sauce and sake until tender and the stock has simmered down. It is also much used for vegetable tempura. In North America it is a prime grade squash for soups and stews, as it holds its shape well in cooking, and is also oven roasted. In Jamaica, it is used in Chicken Foot Soup.


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