Kabocha is commonly called Japanese pumpkin, especially in Australia and New Zealand. It is also called kabocha squash in North America. In Japan, kabocha may refer to either this squash or to the Western-style pumpkin.
Varieties include: Ajihei, Ajihei No. 107, Ajihei No. 331, Ajihei No. 335, Cutie, Ebisu, Emiguri, and Miyako.
Many of the kabocha in the market are Kuri kabocha, a type created from Seiyo kabocha (buttercup squash). It has a strong yet sweet flavor and moist, fluffy texture, which is like chestnuts. It is found in the market under such brand names as Miyako, Ebisu, Kurokawa, and Akazukin.
Kabocha is hard, has knobbly-looking skin, is shaped like a squat pumpkin, and has a dull-finished, deep green skin with some celadon-to-white stripes and an intense yellow-orange color on the inside. In many respects it is similar to the Buttercup squash, but without the characteristic cup on the blossom end. It is a member of the species Cucurbita maxima.
An average kabocha weighs 2-3 pounds; a large specimen can weigh as much as 8 pounds.
Kabocha has an exceptional naturally sweet flavor, even sweeter in taste than butternut squash. It is similar in texture and flavor to a pumpkin and a sweet potato combined. Some kabocha can taste like Russet potatoes. The rind of a kabocha is edible, although, some cooks may peel it to speed up the cooking process, or, to suit their personal taste preferences. Kabocha is commonly utilized in side dishes and soups, or, as a substitute for potato or other squash varieties.
In Japan, kabocha is a common ingredient in vegetable tempura and can be made into soup. Fak Thong (Thai: ฟักทอง) is used in traditional Thai desserts and main courses. This pumpkin is used in Jamaican Chicken Foot Soup. Danhobak (Korean: 단호박) is commonly used for a traditional porridge called Hobakjuk (호박죽), which is mainly eaten during Autumn and Winter. Hobakjuk in the west is more likely to contain pumpkin.
Kabocha is available all year round but is best in late summer and early fall. Kabocha is primarily grown in Japan, South Korea, Thailand, California, Florida, Southwestern Colorado, Mexico, Tasmania, Tonga, New Zealand, Chile, Jamaica, and South Africa, but is widely adapted for climates that provide a growing season of 100 days or more. Most of the California, Colorado, Tonga and New Zealand crop is exported to Japan.
When kabocha is just harvested, it is still growing. Therefore, unlike other vegetables and fruits, freshness is not as important. It should be fully matured first, in order to become flavorful. First, kabocha is ripened in a warm place (77 °F/25 °C) for 13 days, during which some of the starch converts to sugar content. Then it is transferred to a cool place (50 °F/10 °C) and stored for about a month in order to increase its carbohydrate content. In this way the just-harvested, dry, bland-tasting kabocha is transformed into smooth, sweet kabocha. Fully ripened, succulent kabocha will have reddish-yellow flesh and a hard skin with a dry, corky stem. It reaches the peak of ripeness about 1.5–3 months after it is harvested.
All squashes were domesticated in Mesoamerica; new evidence reported in 1997 suggests that this occurred 8000 to 10,000 years ago, a few thousand years earlier than previous estimates. This is 4000 years earlier than the domestication of maize and beans, the other major food plant groups in Mesoamerica. Archeological and genetic plant research in the 21st century suggests that the peoples of Eastern North America independently domesticated squash, sunflower and two other plant species.
Portuguese sailors introduced the kabocha to Japan in 1541, bringing it with them from Cambodia. The Portuguese name for the squash, Cambodia abóbora (カンボジャ・アボボラ), was shortened by the Japanese to kabocha. Certain regions of Japan use an alternative abbreviation, shortening the second half of the name instead to "bobora".
- Aphrodisiac references
- Food Dictionary at Epicurious.com: kabocha squash
- Kabocha, By Setsuko Yoshizuka, About.com, Wayback Machine
- "Kabocha (Japanese Pumpkin) A Flavor of the Earth" Gochiso Web Magazine, 2006, p. 8
- Wade Roush, "Archaeobiology: Squash Seeds Yield New View of Early American Farming", Science Magazine, 9 May 1997:Vol. 276, no.5314, pp. 894-895 DOI: 10.1126/science.276.5314.894
- Bruce D. Smith, "The Initial Domestication of Cucurbita pepo in the Americas 10,000 Years Ago", Science Magazine, 9 May 1997:Vol. 276 no. 5314 pp. 932-934,DOI: 10.1126/science.276.5314.932
- Bruce D. Smith, "Eastern North America as an independent center of plant domestication", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Published online before print 7 August 2006, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0604335103 PNAS August 15, 2006; vol. 103, no. 33, pp. 12223-12228