Kabocha (katakana: カボチャ) is a Japanese variety of winter squash. The word kabocha has come
to mean a general type of winter squash to many English-speaking growers and
buyers. In some cultures it is revered as an aphrodisiac.
Kabocha is commonly called Japanese pumpkin,
especially in Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia, and is also called kabocha
squash in North America. In Japan, the word kabocha may refer to
either the squash discussed in this article or to the Western-style pumpkin.
Varieties include: Ajihei, Ajehei No. 107,
Ajihei No. 331, Ajihei No. 335, Cutie, Ebisu, Emiguri, and Miyako.
Today many of the kabocha in the market
are of the type called Kuri kabocha, which was created based on Seiyo kabocha
(buttercup squash). It’s popular for its strong yet sweet flavor and moist,
fluffy texture, which is like chestnuts. It’s found in the market under such
brand names as Miyako, Ebisu, Kurokawa, Akazukin, etc.
Kabocha is hard, has knobbly-looking skin, is shaped like a squatty
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, along with
the Hubbard and Buttercup squashes.
An average kabocha weighs 2-3 pounds but can weigh as much as 8 pounds.
It has an exceptional naturally sweet flavor, even sweeter than butternut
squash. It is similar in texture and flavor to a pumpkin and a sweet potato
combined. Some can taste like Russet potatoes. Like other squash-family
members, it is commonly mixed in side dishes and soups or anywhere pumpkin,
potato, or other squash would be. It is a common ingredient in vegetable
tempura and can be made into soup. Kabocha (in Thai “ฟักทอง”) is used
in traditional Thai desserts and main courses.
Kabocha is available all year round but is best in late summer and early
Primarily grown in Japan, Thailand, California, Florida, Southwestern
Colorado, Mexico, Tasmania, Tonga, New Zealand, Chile, 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
It is rich in beta carotene, with iron, vitamin C, potassium, and smaller
traces of calcium, folic acid, and minute amounts of B vitamins.
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) for 13 days, during which some of the starch converts to
carbohydrate content. Then it is transferred to a cool place (50°F) 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.
It is generally believed that all squash originated in Mesoamerica,but may
have been independently cultivated elsewhere, albeit later.The kabocha,
however, was introduced to Japan by Portuguese sailors in 1541, who brought it
with them from Cambodia. The Portuguese name for the pumpkin, Cambodia
abóbora (カンボジャ・アボボラ), was shortened by the Japanese to
kabocha. Certain regions of Japan use an alternate abbreviation, shortening the
second half of the name instead to “bobora”. Another name for kabocha
is 南瓜 or 南京瓜 (Nanking melon),
which suggest that the vegetable arrived in Japan by way of China.