Friday, July 22, 2011

Kabocha--The Ugly Squash You'll Love To Eat

By the time this plot of squash was finished spreading its tentacles, it covered half of my small backyard and part of a sidewalk leading to the gate. Squash blossoms were prolific and so was the resultant fruit. My biggest surprise was that of the two seeds that had sprouted, there were two varieties. I ended up with more kabocha than acorn and if you read the story, you'll find out why.
My summer garden flourishes. I have tomatoes and onions ready to eat and herbs aplenty for seasoning. What I thought was an acorn squash plot (Acorn Squash or Pod People) turned out to be a surprising mix of  both acorn and kabocha squash. Heavy on the kabocha. As it turns out, the nocturnal critters that live in the huge canyon across the street have a real taste for acorn squash. Out of all the fruit that set, I harvested only four. And while they were large specimens crammed with more flesh than any I've ever purchased at the grocery store, I'm still pouting that the raccoons and possums got to dine so regally on my supposed winter stash. Just so you know, I'm working on being thankful that at least the kaboacha survived the midnight raids, probably because of its hard, thick shell. Thank God for small miracles.

The squash plants spread out across my grass, rooting wherever a runner touched the soil. I decided to ignore its ability to take over the yard, more interested in seeing how many squash I'd harvest. If my property hadn't been invaded by furry thieves, I'd have at least a dozen more acorn squash than I do.

My dad always grew Hubbard squash when we lived in Minnesota. My sisters and I loved the smooth, sweet flesh, which mom baked and then whipped with butter and cream till it looked like orange mashed potatoes, but with more flavor. Once I began keeping my own home, I began searching the stores for Hubbard squash. Alas, in more than 50 years I never found it in any grocery store or farmer's market. Then came the day I gathered up my courage and complained to a produce manager about the lack of my favorite winter vegetable. He smiled and handed me a kaboacha. "This is as close to a Hubbard as you'll get around here," he said. Reluctantly, I took one of the ugly squashes home, cut it in half, removed the seeds and baked it in the oven. I was hooked.

When these large squashes began appearing, I wasn't sure what they were. It took me a while to figure out they were kabochas, also known as the Japanese pumpkins. The fruit is attractive when it's immature, but once ready for harvest, the outer shell becomes a blackish green, mottled, and bumpy. Not the beauty you'd gravitate towards in the grocery store, but trust me, if you like winter squash, you'll love this one.
 If you're unfamiliar with this particular winter squash, give it a try. The flesh is dark orange, dense, sweet, and teases the palette with a hint of nuttiness. I've eaten it roasted, whipped, stuffed and steamed. Roasted is my favorite, followed by stuffed with a mixture of sausage and rice. You can find all manner of recipes via Google. Or you can use my tried and true family recipe. And even though my mom used Hubbard, the kabocha is a near-perfect substitution. Just proves the old adage that you can't tell a book by its cover. (Ewww, pretend I didn't say that.)


Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and lay the squash cut side down on a baking sheet. Roast at 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes, depending on the size. This particular squash tends to be dense. It is done when you can pierce the flesh easily with a skewer or a long, thin knife. Be careful not to overcook or the flesh will be too dry.

About 10 minutes before serving, turn the squash over and put 2 Tbs. of  brown sugar, a pinch of cinnamon and a light grating of fresh nutmeg into the center well. I always add a bit of butter but you can use vegan margarine if you choose. Return it to the oven long enough to melt the toppings--about 5 minutes. Serves 4.

 Kabocha squash is heavy for its size, with most weighing 3-5 pounds. Kabocha is low in carbohydrates, high in fiber, and an excellent source of beta-carotene. One serving  provides 70 percent of a day's recommended requirements. Both squash varieties were easy to grow. I did nothing except water once in a while. Both plants spread out across the grass but didn't kill it. Worked so well I'll do it again next year. This photo shows some of my kabocha and my last two acorn.

Copyright 2011 by Sandra L Keith, All rights reserved
Photos are the property of the author and may not be reproduced

No comments:

Post a Comment